In the fight against Coronavirus, every helping hand counts

“It was almost impossible to believe at first that I was diagnosed with COVID-19 — maybe because we like to assume these sorts of things won’t happen to us. Once the initial surprise subsided, however, I was filled with fear, because I have been an asthma sufferer for most of my life. Soon enough, I was one of the people that had to be hospitalized and intubated. In those moments, when no one else but a few healthcare workers are allowed by your side, a machine that pumps oxygen into your lungs becomes your best friend — and your only chance for survival. I am more than thankful to have survived and tell the story.” This is the message of a recovered COVID-19 patient who wishes to remain anonymous.

2020 has undoubtedly been a year of big challenges, but also of even more valuable lessons. For those who have been paying attention, the importance of human solidarity and cooperation at its most basic level — relative to relative, youngster to elderly, neighbor to neighbor, colleague to colleague, stranger to stranger — was made strikingly obvious. The intellectual cooperation that has so far assisted our society take giant leaps forward in technology and medicine was the missing puzzle to this picture. Its realization has made it possible that the number of those recovered from the Coronavirus surpasses those who have lost the battle to the disease.

UNDP Albania has been in the front-line of cooperation from the very beginning of this pandemic, by working both with disadvantaged communities and with the local and national authorities. An essential part of these efforts was coming to the support of health authorities by procuring ventilators — life-saving medical machines — used to treat aggravated COVID-19 cases, but also other lung-related conditions.

31 ventilators procured by UNDP with the financial support of the governments of Switzerland and Norway, which respectively donated 330,000 USD and 300,000 USD to which UNDP added an additional 150,000 USD, were handed over to the Ministry of Health and Social Protection. The ventilators were purchased as part of a collective effort to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and to increase the capacities of Albania’s healthcare system to cope with this emergency, and beyond.

“These ventilators’ biggest benefit is their long-term use, their ability to serve as life-saving machines even after the Coronavirus has been eradicated. Ventilators can help the lungs get through a number of sicknesses, injuries and operations and are, for this reason, vital for the successful treatment of every patient in need of oxygen-rich air. This contribution goes beyond the challenge we are currently facing and will hopefully guide many patients to a steady recovery,” Doctor Krenar Lilaj, National COVID Coordinator for Intensive Care, explained.

Krenar Lilaj, doctor and National COVID-19 coordinator for intensive care at the Mother Theresa University Hospital Center

The ventilators came as an addition to the Albanian government’s previous purchase of the same machines, which are critical for treating patients under intensive care. In this context, the Ministry of Healthcare has focused on empowering both regional and national hospitals with the most advanced technological equipment, among the most important of which have been ventilators.

Ventilators are essential in treating severe COVID19 cases

“We are empowering both regional and university hospitals, which have not been lacking services, with technologically advanced equipment. We will continue raising the availability of materials contributing to patients’ protection,” Minister of Healthcare and Social Protection, Ogerta Manastirliu, said during a visit at Lezha’s municipal hospital.

Minister Manastirliu has highlighted during the past months that assisting the government by procuring medical equipment, such as ventilators, will essentially contribute to its ability to improve the treatment of COVID-19 patients and increase their chances for a faster recovery.

The war against COVID-19 is ongoing. In this endeavor, every life saved counts as a battle won. For UNDP, it becomes clearer by the day that fronting this war by cooperating and supporting the government is vital in coming out victorious and enabling more people tell their recovery stories through the help of each and every one of these life-saving machines as well as the careful assistance of the medical personnel standing at the front-line of the battle against COVID-19.