SINGAPORE: The Singapore Red Cross has raised more than S$6 million for its COVID-19 relief operations in China, with the first tranche of aid going out in the next few days, said CEO Benjamin William on Wednesday (Feb 19).
The announcement came about two weeks after the charity first called for public donations for its relief efforts.
On Wednesday, wealth management firm Signature Consulting also presented the Singapore Red Cross with a US$2 million (S$2.8 million) donation on behalf of its clients, some of whom wanted to remain anonymous.
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"The outpouring of support has been tremendous, both from companies as well as individuals," said Mr William.
As of 2pm on Wednesday, more than S$421,000 has been raised by individuals, with the Singapore Government providing S$1 million, and the rest coming from corporations such as the Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC Bank) and organisations like Business China.
READ: Singapore Red Cross raises more than S$100,000 in public donations to help communities in China affected by coronavirus
About S$2.3 million of the first tranche will go towards the purchase and distribution of personal protective equipment for hospital staff and other healthcare providers in six Hubei cities, said Mr William.
This is in partnership with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) which will also distribute items such as surgical masks, face shields, hand sanitisers and chlorine tablets.
"You will appreciate that most of these items are globally in shortage. It is a challenge to mobilise these items.
"The advantage of working with the IFRC is that the Federation has links throughout the world. It is using its global network to source for these items," said Mr William.
"The chances of them acquiring these items are in some way much higher than we as an individual Singapore Red Cross try to acquire them locally."
Three hospitals in Hubei province will also receive emergency medical equipment such as non-invasive ventilators and respiratory humidifiers.
Seven social welfare homes in the cities of Tianjin and Nanning will receive items including masks and disinfectants, and information on personal hygiene will be disseminated through infographics, videos, child-friendly booklets and WeChat posts.
This will be done in partnership with World Vision, which has a "robust presence in China", said Mr William.
The rest of the money will go towards funding other areas such as risk communication, community engagement, and water, sanitation and hygiene promotion.
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More than 100,000 Chinese residents are expected to benefit from the first tranche. A second tranche of more than half a million dollars is expected to go towards supplying 10 negative pressure ambulances to hospitals, said Mr William.
Two staff members have also been deployed overseas - one to the IFRC office in Kuala Lumpur and one to the IFRC office in Beijing.
The worker sent to the IFRC office in Beijing will be there to ensure accountability and proper distribution of supplies, said Mr William.
He added that a key consideration for the Singapore Red Cross is "transparency and accountability".
The Singapore Red Cross takes it time to make sure that its partners are credible, have a direct distribution link on the ground and are able to account for all donated items, he added.
On Wednesday, Mr William reiterated a call for Singaporeans to donate blood, saying stocks remained "low" despite people queuing outside blood banks over the weekend.
The Singapore Red Cross had put out several social media posts last week, saying: "The need for blood never stops, even during this challenging period. We really need you to donate blood to help keep our blood stocks healthy."
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong also wrote on Facebook, thanking those who "stepped up to give blood, even in this COVID-19 outbreak".
However, he said the "blood bank is still short of A- and AB- blood types" and encouraged people to "come forward to donate if you can".
A check on the Singapore Red Cross website on Wednesday showed that stocks for A-, B+, AB- and O+ blood types were in the critical levels.
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