The United States 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 laboratories 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 help 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 Centres for Disease Control.
In the first week of February, the US 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 US$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 US$500 million to other countries 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 spread across national borders and reach our shores.
America’s unsurpassed contributions are also felt through the many international organizations fighting COVID-19 on the front lines.
The United States has been the largest funder of the World Health Organisation since its founding in 1948. We gave more than US$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 UN Refugee Agency, which the United States backed with nearly US$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 Programme, to which the US gave US$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 US$700 million to UNICEF, more than any other donor.
We are proud that when these international organisations deliver food, medicines, and other aid all around the world, that too is largely thanks to the generosity of the American people, in partnership with 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% of the world’s global health assistance programmws, adding up to US$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 US$100 billion in health assistance and nearly US$70 billion in humanitarian assistance globally.
Our aid helps people in the most dire circumstances from Africa to Asia, and beyond. Our targeted sanctions do not prevent Zimbabwe from accessing these humanitarian resources and in no way limit the import of medicine or food.
We have pledged $470 000 to fight the spread of COVID-19 in Zimbabwe. The United States Agency for International Development (USAid) coordinates with the Government of Zimbabwe, the World Health Organisation, the United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, and other stakeholders to help in areas like prevention, testing, laboratory services, and treatment.
The US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) will use US$150 000 to help with COVID-19 prevention measures, including the purchase of soap, hand washing stations and hand sanitisers for the clinics and hospitals we support, and the reproduction of COVID-19 pamphlets and fliers to be shared through health facilities, churches and community organisations around Zimbabwe.
In 2019, the United States provided Zimbabweans approximately US$370 million in healthcare, humanitarian, and development assistance. We will continue feeding over one million food insecure Zimbabweans through the 2019-2020 lean season working with the World Food Program.
Our HIV assistance provides life-saving anti-retroviral medicines to nearly one million Zimbabweans living with HIV, and we are working with implementing partners to provide enough medicines to last at least three months to each patient. Our efforts to prevent and treat malaria and tuberculosis will reduce the risk that Zimbabweans infected with COVID-19 have to fight off multiple infections at the same time, thereby enhancing their chance of survival.
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. American businesses, NGOs, and faith-based organisations have given at least US$1,5 billion to fight the pandemic overseas. American companies are innovating new technologies for vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics, and ventilators. This is 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 US 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.
Brian A Nichols is the United States of America ambassador to Zimbabwe