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With borders shut across the Pacific regional governments have come up with an innovative mechanism to ensure health supplies and personnel essential to the response to COVID-19 can be transported to where they are needed.
The Pacific Humanitarian Pathway on COVID-19 (PHP-C) is a lifesaving fast-track for the clearances and approvals needed to transport medical experts and equipment between countries during the lockdown.
“It's focused on health, for those who are doctors, technicians to help with the labs, to help our public health systems because they are quite vulnerable at the moment,” said Terio Koronawa, Regional Security Officer at the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS).
Without the PHP-C it could take months to deliver health supplies, or they might never arrive as the cost of moving goods between countries during lockdowns when regular flights are not operating is very high.
As of the end of June 10 of the 18 Pacific Forum countries had signed on to be part of the PHP-C with others expected to join soon.
Speaking to journalists, Koronawa explained that the pathway will facilitate the movement of humanitarian supplies and technical personnel to and between Forum nations with new mechanisms for customs and biosecurity, immigration, and for clearances for planes and ships.
Repatriation of Forum nationals to their homes, including seasonal workers, is also be made easier through the Pacific Humanitarian Pathway.
At the moment there are stockpiles of medical equipment for the Pacific in Fiji, Hawaii and Australia.
Koronawa said the PHP-C is a focal point of humanitarian distributions should member countries unable to transport emergency kits across the borders.
“This includes humanitarian assistance from bilateral agreement that are unable to reach their destination due to border restrictions.
“If we are not able to move those supplies in terms of bilateral agreements, I think we should have the PHP-C to assist in the movement of those supplies.
“We have a team that already have national focal points of contact that are already working with our team that is doing the desktop working exercise in terms of supplies that needs to be moved to assist us in terms of making a decision on how and when we can make the movement once we have full endorsement from the members of the PHPC,” Koronawa said.
He also highlights that PHP-C is looking at strengthening bilateral and national arrangement that already exist on the ground.
PIFS Political Issues Adviser/Team Leader Emergency Response Team, Alifeleti (Alfred) Soakai said the PHP-C focuses on the regional approach with greater respect towards the sovereignty of member countries.
“What we are doing is a multilateral approach and we fully respect the bilateral relations that are in place. So what we are doing is not dictating or trying to complicate things.
“We are always focused on the regional approach and we are very respectful of what countries are doing individually and they continue to do so as well as other partners, bigger partners, i.e. the US, China, Australia and New Zealand.
“So our value is providing a common approach to a regional problem,” he said.
SOURCE: WANSOLAWARA ONLINE/PACNEWS
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