IAEA's COVID-19 funding reaches EUR22 million

12 May 2020

An initiative by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to help some 120 countries contain the COVID-19 pandemic has received strong extrabudgetary backing from Member States, with voluntary pledges so far totalling around EUR22 million (USD24 million). Japanese pharmaceutical firm Takeda has also committed to donate almost USD5 million.

The IAEA is sending equipment to help countries test for the COVID-19 virus using real-time RT-PCR. The package includes PPE, PCR machines, reagents and laboratory consumables (Image: D Calma/IAEA)

The funds will enable the IAEA to assist hundreds of laboratories around the world in the use of a nuclear-derived testing technique called real-time reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction (real-time RT-PCR). The method is currently the fastest and most accurate to detect the novel coronavirus causing COVID-19.

Several Member States have announced support for the IAEA's assistance related to COVID-19, including USD11 million from the USA, EUR4 million from Japan, CAD5 million (USD4 million) from Canada, EUR2 million from Norway, EUR500,000 each from Germany, the Netherlands and Russia, EUR200,000 from Finland, along with contributions from Australia and others. In addition, China has announced in-kind support worth USD2 million.

"We are very grateful for the swift and generous contributions from several Member States and for their confidence in the IAEA's ability to deliver emergency support around the world," said IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi. "The IAEA is an important partner to countries in battling this pandemic."

The IAEA assistance comprises ready-to-run testing packages with personal protective equipment (PPE), PCR machines, and laboratory consumables and diagnostic kits. The IAEA also offers technical expertise and guidance and organises webinars to train health professionals around the world.

The number of countries requesting IAEA assistance has increased to 119 from 10 two months ago. "When people turn to the IAEA for assistance in times of crisis, the IAEA has not failed them and will not fail them," Grossi said at a video conference meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors' Programme and Budget Committee.

The IAEA announced in early March it would provide diagnostic kits, equipment and training in nuclear-derived detection techniques to countries asking for assistance in tackling the worldwide spread of the novel coronavirus causing COVID-19. Around 20 RT-PCR machines had been delivered to end users so far, the IAEA said, with many other countries set to receive the kits in the coming days and weeks.

Donation from Japanese pharmaceutical firm

Japan's Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited - one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical firms - has committed to donating JPY500 million (USD4.7 million) in support of the IAEA's global initiative to help countries combat the COVID-19 pandemic. The IAEA said this was one of the largest ever private sector donations it had received. Grossi said Takeda’s contribution would allow the IAEA to significantly ramp up its activities in helping the world control the pandemic and dispatch more testing kits to countries in need.

"The IAEA's technical assistance plays a vital role in countries' efforts to fight this disease. We can only implement such a large project thanks to generous extrabudgetary and other voluntary contributions," he said. "The funds we receive from Takeda and our other partners will help save many lives around the world."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News