Dr. Catherine Smallwood: “The WHO mission is Scheduled to arrive in Turkmenistan on July 6”

Dr. Catherine Smallwood: “The WHO mission is Scheduled to arrive in Turkmenistan on July 6”

The WHO mission is scheduled to arrive in Turkmenistan on July 6 to work with national and local authorities on various aspects of COVID-19 preparedness and response. This was stated by Dr. Catherine Smallwood, head of the WHO COVID-19 mission in Turkmenistan, in an interview published by the UN press center.

- What is the purpose of this mission and how long will the WHO experts stay in Turkmenistan?

- Our work will focus on areas such as coordination and control systems, epidemiology and epidemiological surveillance, laboratory services, patient management, infection prevention and control, and public awareness of the risks of the virus.

We plan to spend about 10 days in the country. Our agenda includes a series of meetings with senior public health officials and experts to work together to assess risks and develop the response systems needed to control COVID-19. We plan to visit medical facilities, public health centers, laboratories, and other facilities at the national, regional, and city levels, as well as entry points.

The mission is part of the specialized support that WHO provides to countries in the European region. In recent months, WHO has sent about 70 missions to various countries in the region to help with COVID-19 outbreaks on the ground, and we very much welcome this opportunity to work closely with Turkmenistan in these unprecedented times.

- The WHO mission has been postponed several times. Can you explain why? 

- Transport restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic made it much more difficult to move around Europe. All this time, we have been in direct contact with the government of Turkmenistan in search of transport options for the members of the mission to reach the country, and with the support of the Turkmen side, we managed to do this.

- How do you assess WHO's relations with the government of Turkmenistan? How do you work with the Ministry of health on COVID-19? 

- WHO has a long-standing fruitful relationship with the government of Turkmenistan and the Ministry of health. The WHO country Office in Turkmenistan was established in 1995 to support the country in developing health policies, strengthening the health system and public health programs in Turkmenistan. Our mission is part of the plans for cooperation with the government of Turkmenistan, and it will focus on preparation in the event of COVID-19 becoming available and distributed. In addition, together with the Ministry of health and with the support of partners and donors, we are working on several projects in this area, such as training courses for health workers, development of information materials, and others.

- Turkmenistan did not report cases of COVID-19. The country is keeping the virus under control, and the approach of the Turkmen authorities to this is working well. As a WHO expert, what is your opinion on the situation in the country?  

- Turkmenistan has established a national multi sectoral task force on COVID-19; approved a plan for preparedness and response to COVID-19; developed guidelines for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19. The reorganization of institutions and staff at all levels of the health system is a critical step taken by the Government: this includes the re-profiling of institutions and the training of health professionals. We look forward to learning more about the work done during our visit.

We are ready to support Turkmenistan in identifying the most effective measures for non-proliferation of COVID-19. We hope that our joint work with national and local authorities will make an additional contribution to protecting the country's population from the virus. 

- The government of Turkmenistan, together with the UN Permanent representative, has developed a national plan for the preparation and response to coronavirus infection. WHO was part of this process. Can you tell us about this document and whether it meets WHO standards?

- WHO has taken the lead in helping the country develop a COVID-19 preparedness and response Plan. It was developed in accordance with WHO standards. The goal of the plan is to prevent infection from entering the country, and if it does, to stop further transmission and mitigate the social and economic consequences of the outbreak. During the preparation phase, the Plan should help identify areas and measures needed to strengthen national capacity, as well as help the Government, UN agencies and other international partners identify areas that need additional resources and funding. WHO will also support Turkmenistan in dealing with the long-term consequences of the pandemic, as Planned.

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