More efficient and reliable health care in BiH with the support of the European Union

The Institute of Public Health of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Institute of Public Health of the Republika Srpska were handed four new field vehicles today for the cold chain worth over 250,000 euros, the procurement of which was provided by the European Union through the “EU4Health” project.

The importance of cold chain vehicles is extremely significant in the process of maintaining the temperature of vaccines during transportation, because exposure of vaccines to inappropriate temperatures can affect the quality and safety of the vaccine itself. The new vehicles will greatly contribute to ensuring the safe transport of vaccines from public health institutions to clinics throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina.

In order to ensure a high-quality cold chain for the storage of all types of vaccines for children and adults, the European Union has so far delivered 253 refrigerators for the controlled storage of vaccines, cooling chambers, manual cooling boxes, personal protective equipment and additional equipment to health institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, through the “EU4Health” project, worth 13.7 million euros.

Gianluca Vannini, the Head of the Operations Section III for Social Development, Civil Society and Cross-Border Cooperation of the Delegation of the European Union in Bosnia and Herzegovina, pointed out that this is a continuation of support to strengthening the cold chains of health institutions so that they can better respond to the potential challenges of the population immunization process, and added: “The European Union has been with Bosnia and Herzegovina since the first days of the pandemic, we worked to increase the readiness of health institutions for the pandemic and to improve their overall capacity to provide other health services. So far, we have provided more than 20 million euros in grants to strengthen health institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina through the purchase of highly sophisticated medical equipment and devices. Together with local and international partners, we continue to support the strengthening and development of the health sector in BiH”.

The vehicles delivered today are the first refrigerated vehicles that have been pre-qualified by the World Health Organization for performance, quality and safety and can be used for the reliable transport of vaccines in the temperature range of 2-8 ̊C. BiH is the first country in Europe to receive this type of vehicle.

Effective and safe immunization of the population is essential to successfully overcoming the current and future health challenges faced by countries around the world. Failure to comply with the cold chain principle leads to a reduction in effectiveness and eventually to the failure of vaccines. With new equipment and vehicles, health workers throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina are provided with quality and safe conditions in order to ensure an effective immunization process.

Veronika Vashchenko, Deputy Representative of the UNICEF representative office in BiH, pointed out: „Today’s donation of the European Union is a clear additional sign of quality cooperation of international organizations with relevant health authorities in BiH. UNICEF BiH provided significant support to the authorities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the adoption of significant reforms in the field of effective vaccine management through joint cooperation. When we look back at what could have been done better, it is clear that preparedness, planning and resilient systems are key to reducing the impacts caused by any crisis. UNICEF BiH is ready to continue working with the authorities to develop resilient systems that will help respond to all threats to public health in the future.”

Director of the Institute of Public Health of the FBiH Siniša Skočibušić and epidemiologist and assistant director for medical affairs of the Institute of Public Health of the Republika Srpska Jela Aćimović thanked the European Union for its continuous support in strengthening the health sector of Bosnia and Herzegovina and ensuring highest quality, efficient working conditions.

These specialized vehicles will significantly improve the daily work of the Institute for Public Health of the FBiH. With this donation, we will improve the transport of vaccines from the central warehouse to the most remote health institutions and places in FBiH. This is just one of the activities that we carry out through this project in order to protect the health of citizens. The donations from the European Union during the pandemic were valuable to us, and we hope that our cooperation will continue in the coming period,” said Skočibušić.

“In emergency situations, such as the pandemic, help to ensure a more functional vaccination program in the Republika Srpska was truly needed. Vaccines by themselves are the most effective tool we have to fight infectious diseases. In order for them to be effective and to be able to carry out the vaccination in the correct way, we must have adequate equipment and conditions. The vehicles we received today allow us to make this process much easier and to be much more confident in the stability of the cold chain during transport. That is why this donation is of great importance for us, and we will use the vehicles not only for vaccination against COVID-19, but also for the regular vaccination program in the RS,” added Aćimović.

Today’s donation is the result of the successful cooperation between the EU Delegation to BiH, BiH Ministry of Civil Affairs and UNICEF as well as relevant health institutions, without which Bosnia and Herzegovina’s response to the global pandemic would not have yielded such good results.

EU4Health is only one part of the European Union’s support for strengthening the health sector of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the European Union has delivered high-quality medical equipment, including ventilators, X-ray machines, ultrasound machines, anesthesia machines, EKG monitors and other equipment, for the needs of hospitals and other public health institutions throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as over 30 tons of protective medical equipment.

The support is part of the overall EU support to BiH for mitigating the crisis and recovering from the consequences of the pandemic in the health and economic recovery sectors, for which the EU allocated over 95 million euros in grants.