A rapid response to the pandemic

As COVID-19 swept across Argentina, quick action to prepare for and respond to the escalating health crisis helped save lives.


In March 2020, the coronavirus reached Argentina. Home to some 47 million people, infections spread from household to household.

With an estimated 37 per cent of the country’s population living in poverty, protecting those most vulnerable from falling ill, as well as the broader socio-economic consequences of the pandemic, was critical.

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In a race against time, the government of Argentina moved quickly to scale up the country’s capacity to ensure critical health services reached vulnerable populations and cities with high population density.

To help expand the capacity of the health system, the government of Argentina’s National Ministry of Public Works requested UNOPS support.

Through fast, efficient and transparent procurement processes, UNOPS procured 73 modular sanitary units to help alleviate the pressure on existing hospitals and health centres – with more units still on the way.

It was important to reinforce the government's health capacity. We saw that emergency procurement procedures were necessary to act quickly and to save lives.

Giuseppe Mancinelli - UNOPS Deputy Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean

The modular health units were spread across 19 provinces and helped provide enhanced health services for more than 8 million people.

Life-saving space

Through 73 modular health units, an additional 45,000 square metres of space helped provide enhanced health services for more than 8 million people

Emergency procurement services

In less than 30 days, UNOPS helped procure and install 11 fully equipped modular emergency healthcare units at the start of the pandemic

Eleven fully equipped modular emergency healthcare units were installed in the provinces of Buenos Aires, Chaco, Córdoba and Santa Fe.

These units, built alongside existing hospitals, provided additional space for patients fighting COVID-19 and prevented the public health system from collapsing in the early days of the pandemic.

Thirty-one sanitary and isolation units were installed in prisons across the country to provide additional space and health services for prisoners fighting COVID-19. 

The remaining modular healthcare and sanitary units were installed at border crossings and other parts of the country to act as an emergency base and to increase access to health services for the general population.

The modular hospital strategy, together with the referral system, allowed the health system of Buenos Aires Province not to collapse.

Juan Riera - Provincial Hospital Director of Buenos Aires

During the height of the pandemic, a surplus of hospital beds and medical equipment, combined with enough personal protective equipment for healthcare workers, meant improved healthcare services for patients and more lives saved.

Within the context of the pandemic emergency, we had to build these [...] hospitals quickly. We were able to achieve this by following a transparent bidding process, with constant support from UNOPS and the United Nations.

Gabriel Katopodis - Minister of Public Works, Argentina

Coordination across national, provincial and municipal levels helped ensure an efficient delivery of much-needed medical supplies and equipment. 

With strong support from the government and local workers, the modular units were installed in record time – playing a critical role in the response efforts undertaken.

Beyond the pandemic, it is expected that the modular hospitals and sanitary units will continue to provide enhanced health services for the people of Argentina.