By Judith Garber
THE STORY of US leadership in the global battle against Covid-19 is a story of days, months, and decades. Every day, new US technical and material assistance arrives in hospitals and labs around the world. These efforts, in turn, build on a decades-long foundation of American expertise, generosity, and planning that is unmatched in history.
The United States provides aid for altruistic reasons, because we believe it’s the right thing to do. We also do it because pandemics don’t respect national borders. If we can help countries contain outbreaks, we’ll save lives abroad and at home in the United States.
That generosity and pragmatism explains why the United States was one of the first countries to offer help to the Chinese people as soon as reports emerged from Wuhan of another outbreak. In early January, the United States government offered immediate technical assistance to the Chinese Centers for Disease Control.
In the first week of February, the United States transported nearly 18 tons of medical supplies to Wuhan provided by Samaritan’s Purse, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and other organizations. We also pledged $100 million in assistance to countries to fight what would become a pandemic – including an offer to China, which was declined.
Our response now far surpasses that initial pledge. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the US government has committed nearly $500 million in assistance to date. This funding will improve public health education, protect healthcare facilities, and increase laboratory, disease-surveillance, and rapid-response capacity in more than 60 of the world’s most at risk countries.
Our aid helps people in the most dire circumstances. For instance, the US government works with NGOs to deliver medicines, medical supplies, and food to the Syrian people, including those living in regime-held areas. We are helping United Nations agencies and nongovernmental organizations build more water, sanitation and health facilities across northern Syria to prevent the spread of the virus. We are aiding friends from Africa to Asia, and beyond.
America’s unsurpassed contributions are also felt through the many international organizations fighting Covid-19 on the front lines.
The US has been the largest funder of the UN Refugee Agency, which the US backed with nearly $1.7 billion in 2019. That’s more than all other member states combined, and more than four times the second-largest contributor, Germany.
There is a similar story with the World Food Programme, to which the US gave $3.4 billion last year, or 42 per cent of its total budget. That’s nearly four times the second-largest contributor, and more than all other member states combined. We also gave more than $700 million to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), more than any other donor.
We are proud that when these international organisations deliver food, medicines, and other aid all around the world, much of it is due to the generosity of the American people in partnership with other donor nations.
Our country continues to be the single largest health and humanitarian donor for both long-term development and capacity building efforts with partners, and emergency response efforts in the face of recurrent crises. This money has saved lives, protected people who are most vulnerable to disease, built health institutions, and promoted the stability of communities and nations.
America funds nearly 40 per cent of the world’s global health assistance programs, adding up to $140 billion in investments in the past 20 years – five times more than the next largest donor. Since 2009, American taxpayers have generously funded more than $100 billion in health assistance and nearly $70 billion in humanitarian assistance globally.
The Republic of Cyprus has taken decisive measures in addressing the COVID-19 outbreak and the United States has been proud to have supported that effort. In Cyprus, the United States funded the creation of the Cyprus Institute of Neurology and Genetics (CING) with $10 million of development aid funding in the early 1990’s. The CING is the national leader in the fight against COVID-19; to date it has tested over 14,000 people in Cyprus for the coronavirus, one of the highest per capita rates of testing in the world.
US government-funded exchange program alumni are also actively contributing, some of whom have taken a leading role in fighting against COVID-19. We have alumni trained in cell biology, virology, and biotechnology who are contributing to the scientific tracking, monitoring, and understanding of this disease. Cypriot alumni of US universities are contributing to virtual hackathons to try and tackle some of the most pressing problems that have arisen from the crisis in healthcare, the economy, and society. Our exchange program alumni are working to fight misinformation surrounding COVID-19 through contributing to crowdsourced global online projects such as the Coronavirus Tech Handbook.
Our help is much more than money and supplies. It’s the experts we have deployed worldwide, and those still conducting tutorials today via teleconference. It’s the doctors and public-health professionals trained, thanks to US money and educational institutions. And it’s the supply chains that we keep open and moving for US companies producing and distributing high-quality critical medical supplies around the world.
Of course, it isn’t just our government helping the world. Private charitable giving is a mainstay of American civic life. American businesses, NGOs, and faith-based organizations have given at least $1.5 billion to fight the pandemic overseas. American companies are innovating new technologies for vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics, and ventilators.
As we have done time and time again, the United States will aid others during their time of greatest need. The COVID-19 pandemic is no different. We will continue to help countries build resilient health care systems that can prevent, detect, and respond to infectious disease outbreaks. Just as US efforts have made the world more healthy, peaceful, and prosperous for generations, we will lead in defeating our shared pandemic enemy, and rising stronger in its wake.
Judith Garber is the US Ambassador to Cyprus