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U.S. Global Leadership to Fight COVID-19
April 14, 2020

U.S. Global Leadership to Fight COVID-19

Ambassador McCarter looks into microscope

By Kyle McCarter, U.S. Ambassador to Kenya

The story of U.S. leadership in the global battle against COVID-19 is a story of days, months, and decades. Every day, new U.S. 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.

Here in Kenya, over 50 years of support from the United States for health providers and health systems has provided the foundation for Kenya’s ability to surveil, trace, test, and treat patients to combat COVID-19. With over 60 billion Kenyan shillings in annual support, the United States is by far the largest international investor in Kenya’s health sector.

· For more than 40 years the U.S. government, through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has supported Kenya’s Ministry of Health (MOH) to build workforce capacity and systems to prevent, detect, and respond to disease threats including COVID-19. CDC helped develop and accredit the MOH National Influenza Centre Laboratory – the first lab in Kenya accredited to test for COVID-19 virus. CDC has provided over $380,000 in immediate support to Kenya MOH to respond to COVID-19, with an additional $1.1 million that will be available this month. CDC has over 40 Kenya-based technical experts in outbreak control, laboratory services, infection prevention/control, epidemiology, clinical management, emergency operations management, border health, and logistics who have been supporting the MOH in COVID-19 preparedness and response since January 2020.

· For 16 years, the U.S. President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has supported health infrastructure essential to responding to public health threats such as COVID-19.

· The United States helps to fund the salaries of over 30,000 medical providers across Kenya. These are the physicians, nurses, and aides who provide the critical primary care to millions of Kenyans daily and are at the front lines of the fight against COVID-19.

· For more than 50 years the U.S. government, through the US Army Medical Research Directorate-Africa (known as the Walter Reed Project) has supported the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) and the MoH to research and develop medical interventions to infectious diseases in Kenya, including respiratory infections such as COVID-19.

· Through the United States Defense Threat Reduction Agency, the United States supports five sites that research pathogens threatening humans and livestock including the Isiolo County Referral Hospital where we recently provided 45 million shillings for new lab equipment and a physical upgrade of the facilities. These labs are the reason Kenya is testing thousands for COVID-19 today.

· For over 55 years, USAID has been Kenya’s partner to accelerate the journey to self-reliance through improvements in health, education, agriculture, economic development, water and sanitation, environment, ending violent extremism across the world, as well as providing over a billion shillings in food aid to Kenyans every year over the last 15 years

to support vulnerable populations. New funding through USAID will provide Kenya $1 million in health assistance that will bolster risk communication, prepare health-communication networks and media, and help provide public health messaging for media, health workers, and communities.

Our generosity and pragmatism explain why the United States was one of the first countries to 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 U.S. transported nearly 18 tons of medical supplies to Wuhan provided by Samaritan’s Purse, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and others. 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 U.S. 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–all in an effort to help contain outbreaks before they reach our shores.

America’s unsurpassed contributions are also felt through the many international organizations fighting Covid-19 on the frontlines. America funds nearly 40% 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. The U.S. has been the largest funder of the World Health Organization since its founding in 1948. We gave more than $400 million to the institution in 2019 – nearly double the second-largest contribution and more than the next three contributors combined.

It’s a similar story with the U.N. Refugee Agency, which the U.S. 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.

Then there is the World Food Program, to which the U.S. gave $3.4 billion last year, or 42% 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.

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 U.S. money and educational institutions. And it’s the supply chains that we keep open and moving for U.S. companies producing and distributing high-quality critical medical supplies around the world.

Of course, it isn’t just our government helping the world. 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. This is USA Marafiki, American exceptionalism at its finest. As we have 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 the U.S. has made the world more healthy, peaceful, and prosperous for generations, so will we lead in defeating our shared pandemic enemy and rising stronger in its wake.