Australia’s support for COVID-19 preparedness and response in Sri Lanka
The strong friendship between Australia and Sri Lanka goes back more than 70 years. In the unprecedented global crisis unfolding as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever that friends continue to support each other. Australia assisted Sri Lanka after the 2004 Tsunami, floods in 2015 to 2019, and the 2019 Easter attacks – and our support will continue into the future.
Australia wants to keep our region safe, stable, prosperous and resilient. The COVID-19 pandemic represents a significant challenge for governments and communities globally - including Australia. Our support will help Sri Lanka prepare for, and prevent, the spread of COVID-19, and to manage the social and economic impacts to come.
Australia’s support to Sri Lanka
Australia has committed AUD 1.5 million to support Sri Lanka’s response to COVID-19. Since 5 March, Australia has been quick to respond to the Sri Lankan Government’s requests for support and to the needs of communities. We have partnered with UN agencies and local partners to identify priorities and coordinate our response.
Our assistance has provided health equipment and support to the Sri Lankan Government, as well as providing crucial food and hygiene items to Sri Lankan communities, including:
· Medical equipment to strengthen national laboratories and case management;
· Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for frontline workers;
· IT equipment to be used by officials to gather data for case management;
· A risk communications campaign including key prevention messages;
· Hygiene and sanitation items for women and families in lockdown areas; and
· Dry food rations to 3,000 families in Batticaloa
Medical equipment to strengthen national laboratories and case management
On 19 March 2020, Australia in partnership with WHO, pledged AUD 600,000 to support Sri Lanka’s Health Disaster Preparedness, Response and Recovery Plan. This support will focus on three key areas:
· National Laboratories – to strengthen the national laboratory systems including provision of equipment to upgrade the National Influenza Center and training for health officers on laboratory systems.
· Case Management – to prepare health care facilities and staff on case management protocols for suspected and confirmed cases. Activities include: assessing infrastructure and equipment in hospitals; capacity building for health officials on use of PPE for infection prevention and care; creation of dedicated staff and ambulances to transport suspected cases; and mock drills in preparedness for community clusters.
· Surveillance, Rapid-Response and Case Investigation – to enhance rapid detection of cases including contact tracing, case identification and isolation. Activities include: enhance communications for district medical officers including webinar facilities; capacity building for provincial and regional epidemiologists on surveillance; and expanding the surveillance system at the epidemiology unit.
More information can be found here.
DFAT, WHO and Ministry of Health officials at the handover of medical equipment (Photo Credit: WHO)
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for frontline workers;
On 29 April, Australia supplied Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) - 10,200 coveralls and 200,000 gloves – to the National Operation Centre for Prevention of COVID-19 Outbreak. The PPE consisted of high quality coveralls and gloves manufactured in Sri Lanka by Australian firm Ansell, and will support Sri Lanka’s efforts to minimise further transmission of COVID-19.
Separately, Australia expedited Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to be airfreighted into Sri Lanka due to global shortages, in partnership with World Food Programme (WFP) and UNICEF. The PPE included coveralls and N95 masks for health officials.
IT equipment to gather data for case management
On 5 March 2020, Australia in partnership with UNICEF, delivered four laptops to the Disaster Preparedness and Response Division (DPRD) of the Ministry of Health and Indigenous Medical Services to support Sri Lanka’s ongoing monitoring of COVID-19. The equipment is being used by DPRD officials and volunteers to input data from international passenger arrival cards to be shared with the island-wide network of health officials, for disease surveillance.
DFAT, UNICEF and Dr Herath from the Disaster Preparedness & Response Division of the Ministry of Health, Nutrition & Indigenous Medicine at the handover of medical equipment (Photo Credit: UNICEF)
Communications on key prevention measures
On 12 March 2020, Australia in partnership with UNICEF, commenced a risk communications campaign focusing on key prevention messages specifically handwashing and cough etiquette. The campaign is on social media, print media, radio and TV and reached approximately 7 million people through traditional media, 3.6 million through social media and 2 million views of the videos.
Key prevention messages developed by UNICEF and WHO
Support for sexual and reproductive health
On 22 April 2020, the Australian Government partnered with International Planned Parenthood Foundation (IPPF) SPRINT, local partner Family Planning Association and the Family Health Bureau on sexual and reproductive health. Australia will support 10 additional counsellors to provide services through the existing “Happy Life” hotline (for sexual and reproductive health information, psychological counselling and support and referrals for SGBV survivors). In addition, 15,000 sanitary napkins and hygiene kits will be distributed to women and girls living in quarantine and lockdown areas.
Family Planning Association and Family Health Bureau officials at the handover of hygiene items and contents of COVID-19 hygiene kits
On 8 April 2020, the Australian Government partnered with UNFPA and the Family Health Bureau to distribute 1,000 dignity kits and 100 maternity kits for women and girls in areas under lockdown. The kits provide basic hygiene and sanitary items to households with limited mobility (under curfew) and households of daily wage earners who are greatly impacted with family income levels depleting items that are often not considered essential and overlooked.
UNFPA, Oxfam and MoH officials at the handover of dignity and maternity kits (Photo credit: UNFPA)
Food rations to families in Batticaloa
On 6 April 2020, the Australian Government joined local partner AMCOR to support a request from the Batticaloa District Secretariat to distribute dry rations to approximately 3,000 vulnerable families. Due to the curfew, individuals in the District were identified as particularly vulnerable to loss of household income of daily wage earners. The funding will support the community for a period of six months. Funding is being provided through a variation to an existing funding agreement between the Department of Home Affairs and AMCOR that aims to strengthen the socio-economic status of families in the region.
AMCOR launching the project at the Eastern Provincial Governor’s Office, handing over a food pack to the Secretary to the Provincial Health Ministry Mr Ansar on behalf of the Governor. (Photo Credit: AMCOR)