By Nuru Ahmed

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has delivered more than 250 consignments to 80 countries with supplies to curb COVID-19 pandemic, with many more to be shipped in the coming days and weeks. The IAEA donations include equipment and expertise to help laboratories around the world step up testing as part of efforts to curb the spread of the disease.

Mr Rafael Mariano Grossi, the Director General of IAEA said, “One hundred and twenty countries turned to us for help. We mounted the biggest operation of support in the history of IAEA.This is emergency support and the effort is to continue. I am encouraging countries and entities in a position to do to contribute in this endeavor.” 

“We have been helping countries through the provision of RT-PCR equipment, as well as accessories for testing and sampling,” said Mr Grossi. He added that the IAEA is also providing personal protective equipment (PPE) and offering webinars and video guidance for health and laboratory professionals on sample collection and processing.

RT-PCR, or reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction, is a nuclear-derived technique to quickly detect the virus causing COVID-19. The IAEA, in collaboration with Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, has in the past assisted countries use this method in the detection of Ebola and Zika, among other diseases.

A total of 80 countries have so far received COVID-19 testing supplies, such as laboratory consumables, key reagents, and biosafety equipment. Out of these, 49 have received PCR machines.

Peru which has been hit hard by the pandemic was the first country to receive the testing equipment. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the IAEA assistance is helping laboratories in Sarajevo and Banja Luka to keep check on the number of cases in the country, which has so far managed to contain the spread of COVID-19. 

With a large and dispersed population, Morocco has seen clusters of COVID-19 cases appear throughout the country. The Ministry of Health is using the IAEA equipment to outfit a mobile laboratory, which started operations two weeks ago, to offer tests in disadvantaged communities that cannot easily access regular health services. 

 Abdelouahab Belmadani the Director of Planning and Financial Resources at Moroccan Ministry of Health said, “The mobile unit will cover all regions of Morocco. This innovative approach will greatly speed up our national COVID-19 diagnostic efforts.”

  The IAEA COVID-19 donation effort has drawn around €26 million in extra budgetary funds, including support from IAEA Member States and Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited. The equipment procured under the project is being shipped to all countries which requested assistance.