On April 3, 2020, USAID awarded a $10 Million grant to the World Health Organization (WHO), out of which $600,000 was designated to support the WHO’s assistance to North Macedonia’s COVID-19 response efforts. USAID’s funds will be part of the WHO’s work under the Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan (SPRP) to stop further transmission of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in North Macedonia and to reduce the pandemic’s impact. This activity will focus on six broad technical areas, including:

1. National laboratories: prepare laboratory systems for large-scale testing of COVID-19;

2. Surveillance and rapid response: enhance with case-finding and event-based surveillance for COVID-19, and also help train and equip rapid-response teams to investigate cases and conduct contact tracing;

3. Infection prevention and control: prevent and control infections in health-care facilities;

4. Points-of-entry public health screening: help implement emergency plans to screen people arriving at countries’ various points of entry, such as airports and land-border crossings;

5. Case management – strengthen clinical care while minimizing the risk of onwards transmission to others; and

6. Risk communication and community engagement: support communication mechanisms to provide the public with reliable, verifiable information to keep everyone informed about how to protect themselves and each other

The launching ceremony for the project took place on the 7th of April in the occasion of the World Health Day. Minister of Health Dr Venko Filipche, USAID Representative to North Macedonia, Mr Erik Janowsky, WHO Representative Dr Jihane Tawilah and USA Ambassador to North Macedonia Her Excellency Ambassador Kate Marie Byrnes took part of this ceremony.

Minister of Health thanked the USAID, US Government and WHO for this very much needed and timely support for the country especially for further scaling up national capacity in COVID-related laboratory testing and strengthening of the activities for protecting the health workforce to maintain the safety of essential care.

Dr Tawilah thanked USAID for the act of Solidarity directed mainly to support the health staff at the frontline of this fight against the virus: to ensure they have the means and the skills to protect themselves and control the infection all health care settings not only in treatment centers. She mentioned that a large part of the grant will also help the Institute of Public Health to continue its remarkable work in tracing and testing and early identification of the cases.

“Today is WHO’s birthday – a day we celebrate each year as World Health Day. This year, we’re paying tribute to the incredible contribution of all health workers, especially nurses and midwives. Nurses and midwives are the backbone of every health system. One of the lessons I hope the world learns from COVID-19 is that we must invest in health workers – not only to protect lives, but also to protect livelihoods”, Dr Tawilah said.

The USAID Representative and USA Ambassador congratulated the Minister of Health for the excellent coordination in the COVID – 19 responses so far and expressed satisfaction of his devotion to support the health workers which are at the frontline of the support,

The expected outcomes of this support are:

 reduced exposure risk in Health care settings including the private sector care providers.

 increased IPH laboratory and epidemiological capacity in testing, surveillance, event-based monitoring and rapid outbreak investigation and response.

The project implementation will start immediately and will be completed in the period of three months.

WHO contributes to the efforts the UN in the country to make sure that timely and coordinated national Health response takes place in line with WHO guidance. This activity is part of the coordinated UN response to COVID – 19.