The COVAX Summit was a great success thanks to the additional pledges from governments and the private sector, achieving far more than the target of US$8.3 billion. This will enable 1.8 billion vaccine doses for nearly 30 percent of the population in the COVAX Facility AMC-eligible economies, including Nepal
On June 2, 2021, Japan co-hosted the COVAX AMC Summit with Gavi to procure funds to provide vaccines for developing countries. Taking this opportunity, let me sum up Japan's assistance for the world and Nepal in the fight against this formidable infectious disease. I think it useful for the readers to be presented with Japan's efforts in a rather comprehensive manner.
Japan has been taking a multifaceted approach to this effect, i.e., international fora; bilateral context; vaccines; cold chain; medical equipment; enhancing the health sector (water, nutrition), and technical assistance for capacity building.
Below is a summary of the contribution which Japan has been extending to the world, as well as to Nepal, in the pandemic.
Whatever the difficulties COVID-19 causes, I believe we will be able to overcome the pandemic by tackling it together.
1. COVID-19 vaccination for all: with the UN and international organisations
Responding to the outbreak, the Government of Japan took a leading role to formulate the COVAX Facility in cooperation with Gavi to ensure that everyone, including our Nepali friends, could be vaccinated. Japan was the first country that made a financial contribution to the newly established COVAX Facility.
We co-hosted the COVAX AMC Summit on June 2, 2021 to further call upon the solidarity and commitment of the international community.
The Summit was a great success thanks to the additional pledges from governments and the private sector, achieving far more than the target of US$8.3 billion. This will enable 1.8 billion vaccine doses for nearly 30 percent of the population in the COVAX Facility AMC-eligible economies, including Nepal, of course. Japanese Prime Minister Suga announced additional contribution for the COVAX Facility from Japan, making it $1 billion in total, the second biggest commitment from a single country only after the USA.
The vaccine is important, but the cold chain is also vital. Japan has contributed $41 million to UNICEF for cold-chain facilities to ensure that the vaccine will reach down as the "Last One Mile Support" for all to be vaccinated.
We have installed medical equipment for cold-storage facilities to assist in the transportation of vaccines for 25 South East and South West Asian and Pacific Island countries, including Nepal. We hope it to be available in Nepal by August 2021.
In addition, as the Prime Minister stated at the CO- VAX AMC Summit, Japan also places importance on support for health security in a wide range of areas, including nutrition, water and sanitation to achieve Universal Health Coverage.
In this context, Japan will host the Tokyo Nutrition for Growth Summit 2021 this coming December to raise awareness for better nutrition for all.
Japan is determined to continue to lead international efforts in the health sector, with an emphasis on multilateralism, by leading the world to "build back better".
2. More medical equipment to hospitals across Nepal
On the bilateral front, Japan is providing medical equipment for hospitals across the country under the Japanese Grant Aid ($2.7 million). So far, 25 blood gas analyzers and 25 portable ultrasound image diagnostic systems have been handed over to hospitals.
In the latest bilateral assistance, the Japanese Embassy handed over 160 high concentration oxygen generators to the Ministry of Health and Population on June 3, and they will be delivered to 58 hospitals around the country for the urgent treatment of COV- ID-19 patients. The hightech equipment can "generate" highly concentrated oxygen without the need of cylinders. The Embassy of Japan is now working to provide additional numbers of such oxygen generators.
What's more, six ambulances will arrive in Nepal in October. While the shortage of ambulances is a serious problem in this pandemic, these Made-in- Japan Ambulances with medical equipment will serve as mobile hospitals to manage emergency care for COVID-19 patients.
Furthermore, I signed a note last April to provide medical equipment for eight advanced public hospitals, to be used for treatment and consultation of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as an MRI ($9 million).Patients with underlying NCD diseases are at higher risk of becoming critical if they are infected with COV- ID-19.
3. Secure medical equipment and necessities with the UN and international organisations
In addition to the COVAX Facility, Japan joins hands with various UN and international organisations to secure medical equipment and necessities in Nepal to fight against COVID-19, cooperating with the UN- HCR, IOM, UNICEF and IFRC ($4.17 million). We also assist in food security in Nepal with WFP, supporting the mother and the child health and nutritional programme in the vulnerable districts of Provinces 1 and 2 ($3.47 million).
4. Training Nepali government specialists and supporting local areas
One of our aims in Nepal is to improve the overall public health condition of the country. Japan has been training Nepali government specialists under our annual technical cooperation programme since 2003. In the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to improve overall public health, and we support the installation of water tanks for hand washing, and capacity building of the Water Treatment Plant (WTP) at Sundarijal, a part of the Melamchi Water Supply Project assisted by Japan.
We also provide protective materials such as masks, sanitizers, gloves and protective clothes as well as PCR test kits for local areas as part of our technical cooperation programme.
Overall, I hope Japan's endeavours will help the Nepali people and medical professionals who face difficulties caused by the COVID-19 situation. Japan stands behind Nepal in combatting this pandemic together, and achieving sustainable socio-economic growth of the country.
Kikuta is Japan's ambassador to Nepal
A version of this article appears in the print on June 16, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.