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IOM and Japan hand over sea ambulances to support COVID-19 prevention and response in BARMM

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MANILA, 1 April 2022 — The UN Migration Agency, International Organization for Migration (IOM), together with the Government of Japan, handed over two units of sea ambulances and key medical equipment to the Ministry of Health (MOH) in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). The handover marks a key milestone of the project aiming at strengthening the region’s COVID-19 prevention and response.

“The assistance comes at a very opportune time as the government boosts its efforts to recover from the pandemic and strengthen its COVID-19 vaccination programme across the country” said Troy Dooley, IOM Officer-in-Charge of Mission in the Philippines. “We believe that the provided equipment will contribute to ensuring that no one, including the vulnerable populations such as migrants, returnees, and the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are not left behind in these critical services” continued Dooley.

While years of underdevelopment and conflict have left the entire BARMM less prepared for health emergencies than the other parts of the country, communities in the island provinces have disproportionately limited access to health, including COVID-19 testing, vaccinations and treatment, due to its geographical remoteness and security concerns. In addition to the sea ambulances, six units of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing machines as well as 20 units of vaccine carriers have been donated. The equipment contributes to detecting and preventing infectious diseases such as COVID-19 and Tuberculosis, improving capacities of local health facilities to deliver critical health services to hardest-to-reach and remote communities even post-pandemic.

“The global pandemic came at one of our most important political phases – the transition period. I hope that the key medical equipment will be of use of dear brothers and sisters in the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi” said BARMM’s Chief Minister, Hon. Ahod B. Ebrahim, expressing his gratitude to the support of the Government of Japan and IOM.

BARMM is currently undergoing a delicate transition and normalization process. The financial and organizational demands of responding to the pandemic, however, has stretched regional capacity, causing delay in the process. As the Bangsamoro government aspires to fulfil its mandate by 2025 regional election, IOM and the Government of Japan strongly hope that the assistance will help reduce the COVID-19 induced constraints and challenges in achieving lasting peace and development.

“Japan firmly believes that peace is the foundation for happiness. It is the hope of the Government of Japan and Japanese people that the people living in Mindanao will be able to enjoy peaceful and fulfilled lives. To achieve this goal, Japan commits to continuously supporting the Mindanao Peace Process the implementation of various development projects” said H.E. Kazuhiko Koshikawa.

With funding of more than USD 2.7 million from the Government of Japan, IOM has been conducting series of health and emergency preparedness interventions to support the region’s COVID-19 prevention and response. In addition to the equipment delivered during the handover ceremony, IOM has thus far provided three cold chain vehicles and antigen testing kits. It is further planning to provide 18 units of solar direct-drive vaccine refrigerators in the coming months.

For more information, please contact: Troy Dooley, IOM Philippines Officer-in-Charge at [email protected]

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