The Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, Hon. James Marape called on the World Health Organization (WHO) last week to assist the most vulnerable developing nations such as PNG and the smaller island nations of the Pacific, Caribbean and Africa, to procure vital gear and equipment for COVID-19 with ease and in a timely manner.

The Prime Minister said this in his response to the major development partners on behalf of the Pacific Islands States members of the Heads of State and Government of the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS).

He also expressed PNG’s deep gratitude to its development partners for the assistance and support to the country during the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said ‘Small islands states of the Pacific, Caribbean, and Africa including PNG were already challenged by limited funds and lack of technical resources and did not have the financial bargaining power or the capacity to realistically compete with cashed up developed nations in the open market for the highly contestable personal protection gear and medical equipment and accessories required to combat and protect their citizens from the COVID-19 pandemic’

Prime Minister Marape was speaking during the First Extraordinary Inter-Sessional Summit of the Heads of State and Government of the OACPS, which was virtually convened by the President of the Republic of Kenya, Hon. Uhuru Kenyatta, as current President in Office of the OACPS, to discuss the COVID-19.

The Prime Minister joined a high-level group of leaders from the OACPS and leaders and heads of a number of major development partner countries and international organizations including, President of France; Prime Ministers of Australia; Canada and Norway; Secretary General of the United Nations; Director-General of the WHO; and President of the European Union Commission.

The Summit was held under the theme ‘transcending the COVID-19 Pandemic: Building Resilience through Global Solidarity’,” Prime Minister Marape said.

The meeting allowed the OCAPS the opportunity to dialogue with major development partners to assess the impact of the pandemic on the OACPS region; identify and review areas of immediate action and response; and enhance global solidarity and collective action to combat and mitigate the impact of COVID-19.

In his earlier Statement, the Prime Minister briefed the Summit on the measures put in place by his Government to manage the COVID-19 pandemic and the success of these proactive measures in ensuring that PNG was able to effectively contain and prevent the COVID-19 virus from spreading in PNG.

Prime Minister Marape further highlighted that while these measures were necessary and vital to stopping the spread of the virus, there was an undeniable and enormous economic cost to the country, similar to other countries that have also imposed such measures.

The country has now moved from a total lock-down to a phased re-opening of key social sectors and the economy,” the Prime Minister stated.

He outlined that his Government has put together an economic stimulus package to address the economic loss and to restore key economic goods and services to acceptable levels.

The Prime Minister said that the challenges and lack of capacity in the health systems of the OACPS were put in the spotlight during the COVID-19 and spoke strongly in support of the development of a collective strategy within the OACPS to solicit assistance and support from the international community to address these challenges.

He reiterated the call for the accelerated operationalization of the OACPS Endowment Trust Fund (ETF), approved by Leaders last year in Nairobi as a vital financial mechanism to mobilize funds and resources to invest in intra-OACPS medical and scientific research needs.

Others in attendance for the virtual Summit was the Minister for Foreign Affairs and International, Hon. Patrick Pruaitch and Minister for Health and HIV Aids, Hon. Jelta Wong, who were all supported by senior officials from the Departments of Prime Minister and NEC, Foreign Affairs and International Trade, and Health.