Unicef gets P50M UK grant to boost COVID-19 response in BARMM
By Bong Sarmiento
Inquirer Mindanao
October 17, 2020 at 2:33 pm

KORONADAL CITY – The United Kingdom and the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) launched a $1 million (about P50 million) project to boost the capacity of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) to contain the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

The grant, which Unicef received from the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO) last September, will support the COVID-19 response in the BARMM which registered the highest poverty rates in the country even before the pandemic and had posted one of the lowest outcomes in child health, nutrition, and education.

Bangsamoro Interim Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim said the project will benefit tens of thousands of people.

The pandemic has driven many families deeper into poverty and has overwhelmed an already weak health system, Ebrahim said in a statement.

Ebrahim said the region will make use of the fund to design important lifesaving COVID-19 messages to reach around 3 million vulnerable people in their own languages and engage these communities to protect themselves.

The fund will also be used to support essential nutrition and vaccination programs for 130,000 vulnerable children and 25,000 infants in 20 BARMM towns and to provide emergency relief support to 5,000 returnees from Sabah, Malaysia in Tawi-Tawi, Sulu, and Basilan provinces.

Ebrahim lauded the UK government and the Unicef for their continued aid to the new Bangsamoro region.

“With the ever-changing realities now, I remain optimistic that not only can we (overcome) this public health crisis but also ultimately, (we can) harness the challenges of our decades-long struggle as the redefined Bangsamoro,” said Ebrahim, who described the COVID-19 pandemic “as the biggest crisis that humanity is facing this century.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought new challenges to children and their families in the Barmm, said a statement released during the event.

“We are delighted to partner with the BARMM government and Unicef to help strengthen capacity to deal with the challenges posed by COVID-19,” British Embassy in the Philippines Deputy Head of Mission Alastair Totty said.

“Children are the future of the BARMM and they deserve to be given every chance to help shape its destiny. The UK Government will continue to be a committed partner in achieving lasting peace and prosperity in Mindanao for the benefit of all its citizens, but especially the most vulnerable children and families,” he added.

The support bolsters Unicef’s response, through its Mindanao field office, providing supplies, training, and technical support to the Bangsamoro government, Unicef Philippines Representative Oyunsaikhan Dendevnorov said.

Supplies procured by Unicef include tents for hospitals, personal protective equipment for health and cleaning staff, and handwashing stations, she said.

Unicef also trains health workers in infection and prevention control, translates and disseminates health messages to various regional languages, and engages children and youth to share their experiences of the pandemic as a way to inform future actions, Dendevnorov said.

Working with religious leaders, Unicef helped incorporate COVID-19 messages in their sermons, she added.


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