On July 6, the World Health Organisation, with funding from the European Union, has scaled up vital supplies for COVID-19 testing to help boost Ukraine’s response to the pandemic. The total amount of the goods worth over EUR 3.5 million include consumables, reagents and critical laboratory equipment to speed up, scale up and automatize PCR-testing. They are procured as part of a larger assistance package from the EU, through its “Solidarity for Health Initiative”, implemented by the WHO Regional Office for Europe and aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19 in Ukraine.

In an event today, the part of the supplies were handed over to the Kyiv Regional Laboratory Center by Head of the Local and Human Development Section of the EU Delegation to Ukraine Frederik Coene and WHO Representative in Ukraine Dr. Jarno Habicht.

Frederik Coene, the Head of the Local and Human Development Section of the EU Delegation to Ukraine, said: “COVID-19 is a defining challenge for public health and a test of global solidarity. It is extremely important to ship consumables, reagents and critical laboratory equipment to speed up, scale up and automatize PCR-testing. Thanks to WHO as an organization with the necessary technical knowledge it has become a reality.

Investing in health must be at the centre of development, it is a necessity and a pathway to security, prosperity and peace. When the world unites to confront a common health threat, anything is possible.”

IMG 20200706 181552 175The equipment delivered are of types included in WHO’s list of quality-assured products and will allow speeding up and expanding testing for COVID-19 across the country, detecting the disease in a timely manner and controlling its spread. For example, one PCR thermocycler enables 400-600 additional tests per day. An automatic station for RNA extraction doubles the speed of detecting the presence of the coronavirus RNA. This quick processing saves health care workers time and energy and helps decrease the probability of human error.

Dr. Jarno Habicht, the WHO Representative and Head of the WHO Country Office in Ukraine, said: “WHO will continue to bring life-saving shipments and expertise to Ukraine, despite the ongoing global shortage of COVID-19 supplies. The laboratory supplies that WHO is making available, thanks to funding from the EU, will allow for wider and increased testing for COVID-19 across the country. Enhanced testing is critical for detecting the disease in a timely manner, controlling the spread of the virus and saving lives.”

3 Jarno HabichtJPG

The supplies will be distributed to 27 laboratories – the Region Laboratory Centers and Public Health Center – which are on the frontlines of COVID-19 response, and among them cover most of the testing in all regions of Ukraine.

5 Viktor Liashko MOHJPG“In the first weeks of the pandemic, we have not only responded quickly to the challenges, but also acted for the future. Our team began to develop joint long-term plans with international organizations to strengthen the laboratory capacities. Now we are following this plan and are gradually preparing for a possible second wave of COVID-19. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Ukraine has already increased the number of PCR tests conducted per day — from 300 to 14 000," said Deputy Minister of Health, Chief State Sanitary Doctor of Ukraine Viktor Liashko.

This is one of several deliveries that will continue through to August 2020, with supplies to be distributed to laboratories according to needs identified by the Ministry of Health in Ukraine and the Office of President of Ukraine.

Galyna Hrynchuk, the Head of the Kyiv Regional Laboratory Center: “Ukrainian laboratories are doing everything in their power for rapid testing of suspected COVID-19 patients. Employees often work long hours, including weekends. Our resources are limited, so this is a very useful and timely help.”

The donation of the laboratories supplies such as equipment, consumables, reagents is a part of the European Union’s response to the outbreak of COVID-19, currently affecting 216 countries and territories. The total COVID-19 response package from the EU for Ukraine is EUR 190 million.

The funds initially will be used to meet immediate emergency needs, such as procuring essential supplies and training for health-care workers, frontline responders and patients. In the longer term, the assistance will be assigned to strengthening the country’s capacity to respond to public health emergencies. The project is built upon the European Union’s and WHO’s ongoing support to Ukraine.

Background information: “Solidarity for Health Initiative” is a joint effort of the European Union and WHO Regional Office for Europe in six countries of eastern Europe and the Caucasus – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova, and Ukraine. The project is aimed to help prevent, detect and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and strengthen the EU’s Eastern Neighbourhood’s capacity to respond to public health emergencies. The project is implemented by the WHO Regional Office for Europe and WHO country offices, in close coordination with EU Delegations, national authorities and development partners, including those in the United Nations system.

Background information about the role of WHO in COVID-19 response: The role of the WHO Country Office in Ukraine is to support the country in creating and strengthening policies for sustainable health development. This includes providing technical guidance in public health-related issues, supporting the development of standards and guidelines, building up local relationships for efficient technical cooperation, and ensuring that public health measures are coordinated and in place during crises.

Currently, the Country Office in Ukraine is focusing its work on COVID-19 response and cooperation with the health authorities and other institutions involved in the country-level coordination, planning, and monitoring, case investigation, infection prevention and control. WHO has been supporting improving the national and regional capacities to diagnose COVID-19 via the national laboratory system, and also improving clinical standards and approaches in the country. For additional information, please contact to Ms. Tetiana Dolhova, Communications Officer via dolhovat@who.int