Australia’s Response to COVID-19 in FSM through partnership with IOM

Media release: Australian Embassy, Pohnpei (Federated States of Micronesia)

Left to right: FSM Gender Development Officer and Chief of Social Affairs, Mrs Norleen Oliver-Deorio; Secretary of Foreign Affairs, the Honourable Kandhi Elieisar; Secretary of Health & Social Affairs, the Honourable Livingston Taulung; Charge d’ Affaires, Ms Vy Duong. Photo credit: Australian Embassy, Pohnpei.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Australia will partner with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) to fund a new project that will ensure that dispensaries and health centres throughout the FSM are able to provide women and girls access to essential products and services. This project will also improve dispensaries’ and health centres’ water supply systems, sanitation facilities, and hygiene supplies and practices.

The overall objective of this project is to support the FSM’s capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as meeting the needs of local communities, especially those most vulnerable such as women and girls. FSM has recently included gender-based violence (GBV) services as one of the essential services to be decentralized to dispensaries and health centres in all four states.

Existing gender inequalities are known to worsen during a crisis, resulting in women and girls facing even higher rates of family violence and being less able to access essential health services. This project will provide psychological first aid training to dispensary staff, information packets on gender-based violence (GBV) and ways to get help, as well as dignity kits for GBV victims. The dignity kits will be prepared in the FSM containing reusable menstrual hygiene pads, soap and other products essential for women’s health and hygiene.  Many of the products in each dignity kit will be hand-made locally by women in the FSM to provide entrepreneurial opportunities for women and support women’s economic empowerment.

The initiative is the result of a new partnership between the International Organization (IOM) and the Australian Embassy in Pohnpei. Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development (Pacific Women) will be providing additional technical support.

Australia is contributing USD300,000 towards this project.  IOM will coordinate the project’s implementation, working with a wide range of partners including the FSM Department of Health and Social Affairs; State Department of Health in Pohnpei, Chuuk, Kosrae, and Yap, Department of Environment, Climate Change and Emergency Management (DECEM); Environment Protection Agency (EPA); World Health Organization (WHO); and the newly established FSM Social Protection Cluster.

Australia is also pleased to have supported FSM’s COVID-19 preparedness through Phase 1 of the WHO’s COVID-19 response in the Pacific. This provided FSM with assistance on incident management, surveillance, risk communication, laboratory testing, infection prevention and control, as well as PPE including gloves, gowns, surgical masks, eye protection and infrared thermometers. 1,000 GeneXpert testing cartridges will also be provided to FSM under a jointly funded initiative with WHO, New Zealand, PIHOA and SPC, with a number of shipments already delivered.