The U.S. Embassy in South Africa has announced the donation of 729,000 protective masks to South Africa’s National Department of Health (NDoH) to help with efforts combat COVID-19.
The American government donation was made possible through the U.S. Department of Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s (DTRA) Biological Threat Reduction Program.
The FFP2 (filtering face piece particles) respirator masks, locally sourced in South Africa, are approved by the European Union and are the equivalent of the N95 respirator mask commonly used to protect from the risk of infection.
“Working tirelessly on the ground in partnership with South Africa, we are mobilizing support to fight COVID-19 together,” said U.S. Ambassador Lana Marks. “In addition to our significant financial and technical assistance, we are honored to announce another donation of locally sourced PPE to South Africa’s National Department of Health, which will help to keep essential health workers safe as they work to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in South Africa.”
The Department of Health plans to distribute the masks to health workers on front lines in all nine of South Africa’s provinces.
“Our ongoing partnership with South Africa is ensuring the fight against COVID-19 is swift and effective,” Marks added.
“A number of critical steps have been taken to control the spread of this virus, we face a reality going forward, we are going to experience a need for various equipment, a lot of demand in personal protective equipment,” said South African Deputy Minister of Health Dr. Joe Paahla.
“This contribution of equipment from the United States of America could not have happen at a better time because we are really battling to create a capacity to protect our health workers. The collaboration between the people of the U.S is just not in words or promises but in good relationship. I would also add a thanks to the U.S for considering our local industry in purchasing PPE. COVID-19 has no border, no race, or no gender and I assure you these masks will go towards saving lives, South African lives,” Paahla said.
U.S. Embassy personnel delivered the first consignment of 76,000 masks to the Department of Health Headquarters in Pretoria on May 15.
Subsequent consignments will continue to be delivered weekly until all 729,000 masks are provided.
In addition to this donation of locally sourced personal protecting equipment, the U.S. Department of Defense Threat Reduction Program has been working with the South African government since 2010 to enhance disease detection, laboratory-based diagnostics, and disease outbreak investigation capacity.
The goal of the cooperative effort is to strengthen South Africa’s position as a regional leader in biosecurity, biosafety and diagnostic training for the Southern African Development Community, said U.S. Embassy Defense Attaché, Navy Capt. Steven Morgenfeld.
“We could not be happier that the Biological Threat Reduction Program was able to support NDoH’s work with this donation of PPE,” Morgenfeld said.
“This epitomizes the kind of teamwork we need during this crisis.”
The U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency works to prepare American military forces, its allies and partners around the globe to counter the effects of potential weapons of mass destruction, including biological agents. The agency’s research, training and partnerships are an ideal fit to help counter the global impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Morgenfeld explained.
“Our U.S. Embassy team, including Threat Reduction, Defense Cooperation, and the Defense Attaché Office, is excited to continue our partnership with South African first responders,” Morgenfeld said.
Lawrence Smith III, chief of the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s Regional Africa Office said: “This global crisis calls for immediate action, strong partnerships and resilience. DTRA’s Biological Threat Reduction Program is proud to provide this donation of personal protective equipment to the National Department of Health as they combat the spread of COVID-19 in South Africa.”
“We are all in this fight together, and it is only together that we will beat this virus,” Smith said.
Protective Equipment shortages, especially for healthcare workers, has been a critical issue globally since the coronavirus pandemic began. Procurement funding and suitable supply manufacturers is key to solving the problem, Smith said.
To date, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has committed US$13.2 million in funding, along with $8.4 million in assistance through the U.S. Agency for International Development. This brings the total U.S. government commitment to South Africa’s COVID-19 response to over U.S. $21.5 million (R410 million).