IOM Strengthens Preparedness Measures for COVID-19 Across the North Pacific
Pohnpei – The Republic of Palau (ROP), the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) and the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) remain free of COVID-19 due to the decision to close their borders in March 2020 when many countries opted to remain open. While the three countries are at varying stages of reopening, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) will continue to work with government partners to further strengthen their capacity to prevent, detect and respond to a potential outbreak of COVID-19.
In the Republic of Palau, IOM will promote handwashing techniques and good hygiene practices by procuring soap and soap dispensers for public buildings as well as constructing handwashing stations. Moreover, IOM will partner with local organizations to distribute household WASH kits for practicing good hygiene to families in the Republic of Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia.
IOM will also partner with the Gender and Protection Cluster in the Republic of the Marshall Islands to address gender-based violence, provide psychosocial support trainings and carry out inclusive and protection measures in the context of COVID-19. IOM will also distribute Safe Space kits for women and girls in need of assistance following a violent situation, which Angela Saunders, Head of Sub-Office in Majuro, highlighted are “an essential item for women and girls who may have to seek alternative shelter during a lockdown.”
Similarly, IOM will support the newly established Protection Cluster in the Federated States of Micronesia to ensure that the country’s most vulnerable persons are prioritized throughout preparedness and response efforts and will partner with the Pohnpei Women’s Council to increase their capacity to function as a safe space for women and girls.
A gendered-lens is particularly important for any activity related to COVID-19, as lockdown measures risk increasing incidents of violence against women in the household.
IOM will work with other government partners, including the State Risk Communication and Community (RCCE) sub-committees in each of the States of the Federated States of Micronesia and the Public Information Office (PIO), the National Emergency Management Office (NEMO) as well as the Ministry of Health (MoH) in ROP to develop Information, Education & Communication (IEC) material related to COVID-19.
IOM will also seek partnerships with the private sector and local advocacy groups to develop additional messages on protection and assistance, particularly for persons with disabilities, women, youth and the elderly.
In addition, IOM will support the Republic of the Marshall Islands’ National Emergency Operations Center (NEOC) to coordinate and plan the government’s COVID-19 response strategy and will donate communication tools to NEOC as well as smart devices to the Ministry of Health and Human Services (MoHHS). According to Salvatore Sortino, Chief of Mission of Micronesia, “These activities will serve to further support inter-governmental coordination and thereby promote a more effective response to an outbreak.
In terms of medical equipment, IOM will coordinate with the World Health Organization (WHO) and relevant government partners in each of the three countries to donate Personnel Protective Equipment (PPE) and health supplies. The items will be stored in IOM’s warehouses and are meant to cover any short-term gaps in each country’s supply chain.
The combination of awareness raising, donation of medical supplies, promotion of handwashing and enhanced protection measures are expected to better prepare the three countries for COVID-19. IOM’s assistance to the three countries is possible thanks to generous support from the government of the United States of America and the Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA).