Four agencies of the United Nations have launched Tech Access Partnership (TAP) as part of a coordinated approach to strengthen developing countries’ responses to the rampaging COVID-19 and increase access to lifesaving health technologies.
The four UN agencies are the UN Technology Bank, the UN Development Programme (UNDP), UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the World Health Organisation (WHO),
The UN Technology Bank for Least Developed Countries is, however, a global organisation dedicated to enhancing the contribution of science, technology and innovation for sustainable development in the world’s least developed countries.
The bank became operational in 2018 and serves the 47 least developed countries (LDCs) and former least developed countries for up to five years after they graduate from the category.
According to the UN, LCDs are low-income countries confronting severe structural impediments to sustainable development. They are highly vulnerable to economic and environmental shocks and have low levels of human assets.
Headquartered in Gebze, Turkey, the bank actively engages with national, regional and international partners to deliver its programme and projects which strengthen science, technology and innovation capacity in the least developed countries.
The bank supports national and regional technological efforts, reinforces partnerships across sectors and helps nations identify and use appropriate technologies to transform their economies and improve livelihoods.
As demand for personal protective equipment, medical devices and diagnostics increases exponentially amid the global pandemic, countries with limited resources are often unable to purchase or produce the tools they need to mount effective responses to COVID-19.
Lack of access to technical expertise, training and regulatory frameworks also limit local production of essential equipment in these regions, particularly for more complex products like ventilators.
TAP aims to address critical shortages of essential health technologies and equipment by connecting manufacturers with critical expertise and emerging manufacturers in developing countries to share the information, technical expertise and resources necessary to scale up production of these tools.
The Partnership will also support countries to develop affordable technologies and equipment that meet quality and safety standards.
Deputy Secretary-General of the UN, Amina J. Mohammed, says “now, more than ever, the global community needs to unite to save lives and secure sustainable futures. Inequalities are exacerbating the technology and digital divide when it comes to opportunities for youth, creating a divide that threatens to leave them behind.
“Increasing access to necessary technologies through partnerships is a crucial component of the United Nations’ COVID-19 health, humanitarian and socio-economic response.”
TAP will be led by the UN Technology Bank for Least Developed Countries. The initiative, which is open to all developing countries, will also be supported by its core partners, UNDP, UNCTAD and WHO.
Managing Director, UN Technology Bank, Joshua Setipa, says “without access to lifesaving technologies, many developing countries are unprepared for the potentially devastating impact of COVID-19. By enabling developing countries to produce these technologies themselves, we can help set them on the path to recovery.”
TAP’s key functions will include: Product Information – a digital warehouse of manufacturing and design specifications, technical knowledge and information required to increase capacity.
Technical Guidance – a lifeline of technical support to help manufacturers troubleshoot issues they may encounter as they seek to ramp up production, including information on market dynamics and regulatory hurdles.
Partnerships – a platform to match companies based on expertise, needs and capacity.
The initiative is guided by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the UN’s call for shared responsibility and solidarity during the COVID-19 crisis.
UNDP Administrator, Achim Steiner, says “TAP’s role in advancing more equitable access to critical health technologies is fundamental to help developing countries in responding to the immediate and devastating effects of COVID-19.
“Moreover, the partnership’s efforts to increase access to critical knowledge, technical tools and guidance will boost the resilience of countries and societies to future shocks – while helping to drive their socio-economic recovery at the same time.”
For the Director-General of WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, “COVID-19 has shown us that a disease outbreak anywhere is a threat everywhere. We must stand together to support all countries and ensure equitable access to lifesaving technologies.
“Scaling up access to medicines and health technologies in these countries is essential to slow new infections and avoid unnecessary deaths.”
TAP will also collaborate with other relevant initiatives to ensure COVID-19 response efforts are coordinated and complementary.
The partnership is centred in the UN Development System’s overall approach to counter the socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, which includes scaling up global capacity for testing and treatment, providing social protection for the most vulnerable and making countries resilient to future pandemics.
Secretary-General of UNCTAD, Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi, says “the Technology Access Partnership can be an important part of the effort to help developing countries recover from this crisis. By expanding the skills and capacity of local manufacturers, the initiative can boost innovation and contribute to inclusive economic growth.”
As an initial pilot, TAP will begin working with manufacturers in several developing countries around the world.
Senior Minister and Minister of Industry, Science, Technology and Innovation of Cambodia, Cham Prasidh, says “there’s an urgent need to start filling gaps in technology and equipment to meet the health needs of our population.
“Our country faces similar challenges as other developing countries: lack of special-purpose spare parts, specific technical know-how, experience with different technologies, and funding for research and development. Greater access to these tools offered under TAP will save lives, boost our country’s responses to COVID-19 and help us prepare for future crises.”
Meanwhile, in Nigeria, the COVID-19 death toll has risen to 200. The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) which made this public also announced on Wednesday night that the country recorded 284 new cases of the disease thus bringing the total number of infections to 6,677.
NCDC says eight new patients were confirmed dead from the virus infection in the last 24 hours, just as the total number of treated and discharged patients rose to 1840 across the country.
The 284 new cases were recorded in 13 states with Lagos still holding tight to the lead title with 199 cases, followed this time by Rivers’ 26, Oyo 19, Abuja and Borno eight each, Plateau seven, Jigawa six, Kano five, Abia two, Ekiti, Delta, Kwara and Taraba one each.