VIETNAM – IFC, the global development institution, has started a program that aims to improve personal protective equipment (PPE) producers’ operations and reduce costs by removing unnecessary burdens related to standards and conformity assessments.
As part of the global PPE advisory program supported by the UK Government, the IFC is working with local garment manufacturers in the country through the Vietnam Textile and Apparel Association (VITAS) and national labs through the Directorate for Standards, Metrology and Quality of Vietnam (STAMEQ), to improve the capacity of the local firms.
IFC’s platform was launched in July 2020 and includes up to US$4 billion financing to increase access to critical health-care services and products to fight the pandemic in the developing world.
The IFC notes that significant shortage of PPEs in many countries has impacted the containment of the COVID-19 pandemic over the past 18 months. The support of the IFC will enable Vietnam to supply reliable and quality PPE products to protect frontline health workers and reduce community transmission.
It adds that given the unprecedented pandemic, the global volume demand for high-quality PPE products including face masks, medical gloves, safety glasses and shoes, respirators, coveralls, vests and full bodysuits increased three to four times between 2019 and 2020.
However, sinces it takes time to deliver large-scale vaccinations to cover the global population, the demand for PPE products is expected to continue growing at between six and nine percent annually at least until 2025, according to a recent study funded by the United Kingdom Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO).
With the production of PPE manufacturing capacity surging six-fold in Vietnam in 2020, according to the IFC, the country has emerged as one of the new PPE suppliers globally, initially driven by textile manufacturers shifting production in response to the health emergency and to mitigate losses caused by cancelled orders for garments.
“Some textile manufacturers who started producing PPE products as an immediate response to the pandemic, are now considering the medium to longer-term business opportunity in this area,” said Vu Duc Giang, Chairman of Vietnam Textile and Apparel Association. “However, local manufacturers have struggled with insufficient input materials, technical skills and sector knowledge, and disparity between local and international standards to access global market.”
Boosting local capacity for PPEs
In response, the IFC is planning a series of activities to boost PPE-related industry knowledge, with a focus on technical requirements and standards for PPE products in different markets.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has tested the resilience of supply chains to the limit, especially on medical supplies including personal protective equipment. The UK believes that the diversification of PPE manufacturing will make the global supply chain more adaptable and prevent future disruption,” said Gareth Ward, British Ambassador to Vietnam.
The project will also support select manufacturers to scale quality PPE production, access reliable supply of materials and equipment, and achieve PPE international standards and certification to expand exports over the next 18 months.
“Access to cost-effective and quality PPE products is vital to national COVID-19 responses, helping contain and manage the spread of the coronavirus,” said Kyle Kelhofer, Country Manager for Vietnam, Cambodia, and Lao PDR. “Promoting production of PPE products in compliance with international standards not only helps increase Vietnam’s resilience to the pandemic, but also presents a business case as the PPE global supply chain is diversifying with opportunities for new manufacturers from emerging markets including Vietnam.”
In January 2021, the IFC and the UK Government launched a global PPE advisory program to increase the supply of COVID-related PPE products to developing countries, as part of IFC’s COVID-19 response and under IFC’s Global Health Platform.