Global Shortage of PPE amid COVID-19 - Bambang Susantono

Speech | 4 June 2020

Opening remarks by Bambang Susantono, ADB Vice-President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development, at the Asian Impact Webinar Series #1: Global Shortage of PPE amid COVID-19, 4 June 2020

Thank you, Karen.

Good afternoon to those of you in Asia.  Good morning or good evening to those of you connecting from other regions.

I am very pleased to host this inaugural session of the Asian Impact. This webinar series will be a vehicle to showcase ADB’s research work and debate on issues that are critical for Asia’s continued development.

Over the coming months, the Asian Impact will explore a wide range of development topics including what is considered the biggest risk today— and the one keeping Asia’s key decision-makers awake at night—the COVID-19 pandemic.

Without a doubt, the pandemic is posing unprecedented health, economic, and social challenges to Asia and the world.

ADB has been working closely with our member countries from the outset of the pandemic. We stand ready to provide crucial financial and knowledge support as governments across Asia take extraordinary measures to contain the virus while supporting their people and economies.

ADB’s comprehensive $20 billion package for a range of pandemic responses was approved in April.  This is a funding package that countries can quickly tap. It includes an emergency countercyclical fiscal support under the COVID-19 Pandemic Response Option, or what we call “CPRO.” The CPRO is helping our developing member economies to mitigate the social and economic costs of the pandemic including disease containment, social protection, economic recovery measures, and support to small businesses.

The pandemic has exposed weak links in our economies. One of them is the global shortage of personal protective equipment. I hope you agree with me that of all the inequity and dysfunction exposed by COVID-19, the disconnect in our health sector is devastating. It is heartbreaking to see the images of frontline healthcare workers who are compelled to attend to patients without personal protective gears, just because the supply chain has failed them. Some of them contract the disease when it could have and should have been prevented. The weak medical equipment supply chains are putting the lives of our frontline healthcare workers as well as their patients at extreme risks.

According to UNICEF, by the end of the year, low- and middle-income countries would need 2.2 billion surgical masks, 1.1 billion gloves, 13 million goggles, and 8.8 million face shields.1

To meet this need, ADB is contributing to the strengthening of regional and global mechanisms to foster a faster and more cost-effective approach to procurement of much-needed medical supplies. This includes coordinating with the newly formed UN COVID-19 Supply Chain Task Force, WHO, UNICEF, other multilateral institutions, national centers for disease control, and our developing member countries.

We have also increased our private sector support for COVID-19 response to $1.8 billion, which includes expansion of our Supply Chain Finance Program. Together with commercial banks, we will support supply chain networks and trade finance; address working capital shortages; and provide loans and guarantees to both financial institutions and microfinance organizations.

This is where we turn to the subject of today’s session. Our discussion today will look at potential strategies for governments both independently and collectively to improve the global supplies of critical medical equipment and, more broadly, to enhance resilience in global supply chains in the longer term. In addition, experts from within and outside ADB will discuss the role of multilateral development banks in improving production and logistics capacity, increasing trade finance, and protecting vulnerable sectors of the economy.

With this, let me officially launch ADB’s Asian Impact Webinar series!

Karen, who is a Director with our Department of Communications, will take you through today’s events. Karen, the floor is yours! 

1UNICEF. 4 May 2020. COVID-19 impact assessment and outlook on personal protective equipment,