As part of the UN’s coordinated response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Tunisia, UNODC equipped five border crossings in the country with decontamination units as well as protective and medical equipment to isolate and test travelers with symptoms.
“Before this equipment was provided, we were testing up to 2,000 individuals a day outside”- Doctor, frontline of a border crossing point in Tunisia."
During the handover ceremony held at the Tunis-Carthage International Airport, the UN Resident Coordinator, Mr. Arnaud Peral, stated that “this pandemic has had an enormous impact on our societies. The one thing that we may have learned is solidarity. To be able to overcome COVID-19’s negative consequences, we must act together and support one another in an inclusive way. Today this solidarity becomes a reality thanks to the flexibility displayed by the EU in redirecting funds to the COVID-19 response. Flexibility and inclusion shown by Tunisia assures that nationals as well as foreigners and migrants, will be included in all stages of the upcoming vaccination campaign.”
The event, organized by UNODC in line with the World Health Organization’s health and safety measures, brought together officials from the Tunisian ministries of health, interior and transport.
The EU Ambassador to Tunisia, Mr. Marcus Cornaro, affirmed that “border posts as well as Tunis Carthage Airport are crucial in ensuring safe international travel and access to the country. They are also a priority for Tunisia and its travel industry’s recovery. The provision of such equipement to Tunisia will help ensure a quick return to normalcy for its hard-hit tourism sector.”
Since its outbreak, the COVID-19 crisis has had an unprecedented impact on societies. To address these challenges and support countries to contain the spread of the virus, UNODC mobilized resources and assisted national institutions to continue operating safely and effectively.
Now, the border posts of Bouchebka, Malloula, Tunis-Carthage Airport, Dehiba and Hizoua have been provided with fully equipped isolation units, allowing health staff and border authorities to isolate and conduct safe testing for travelers or for those displaying symptoms. It also enables the same staff to liaise with hospitals and arrange for transfers of individuals once there is a suspected or detected case of COVID-19. These units also help to ensure the safety of other travelers who may otherwise be exposed to the virus.
Mr. Faouzi Mehdi, Minister of Health in Tunisia, added "we express our gratitude to UNODC, WHO and the EU for the five isolation units that will be crucial in the fight against COVID-19 as well as future health crises. We are also waiting to receive COVID-19 vaccines and we trust our partners for the support they will provide in obtaining them”
Ms. Caroline Burgers, UNODC Head of Office a.i. also noted the following: “I want to thank all colleagues involved as well as our partners for the efforts made, and for this excellent example of partnership and coordination.”
The support of the European Union was fundamental in achieving this important result. Funds under two EU-UNODC joint projects on “Dismantling human trafficking and migrant smuggling criminal networks in North Africa” and “Strengthening the legal regime against foreign terrorist fighters in the Middle East, North Africa and South-Eastern Europe” were re-directed to equip Tunisia’s border posts with the decontamination units.