A Message from Chargé d’Affaires Steve Walker
I hope this post finds you and your families safe and doing well, whether you are here in Eritrea or at home in the United States, or anywhere else in between. These are very challenging times. I am impressed at the responsible, timely measures that have been taken by the Eritrean government to protect everyone. As many of you have seen from our MASCOT messages and Health Warnings (which we’ve also posted here on Facebook), the U.S. Embassy in Asmara has adopted the social distancing measures announced by the Eritrean government and reduced its operations. Those staff who can are teleworking from their homes. That said, our consular section is open – and always will be open – for emergency citizen services. Assisting our fellow citizens is our #1 priority. If you are an American citizen here in Eritrea and need assistance, please call (120004) or come see us at the Embassy’s consular section (8:00-12:00).
During this time of crisis, I have been dismayed by efforts to politicize it. I am very proud of the technical and material healthcare-sector assistance my country provides to countries in Africa and all over the world. The United States provides aid for altruistic reasons, because we believe it’s the right thing to do. We also do it because pandemics like COVID-19 don’t respect national borders. If we can help counties contain outbreaks, we’ll save lives abroad and at home in the United States. Now is a time for the world to come together. Together, as a world community, we will defeat this terrible COVID-19 virus. It won’t be easy – but we will win.
At the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, 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 U.S. 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.
In the intervening weeks, 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.
Our aid helps people in the most dire circumstances. For instance, the U.S. 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.
Sometimes the United States provides directly to countries, often through USAID missions. An enormous amount of U.S. assistance comes indirectly, through international organizations like the UN. Eritrea does not have a USAID mission, but benefits from U.S.-funded assistance through regional efforts, such as regional assistance to fight the current locust infestation, as well as the UN. 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.
We are proud that when these international organizations 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.
The United States 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. 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. Since 2009, American taxpayers have generously funded more than $100 billion in health assistance and nearly $70 billion in humanitarian assistance globally.
Again, I hope this message finds you and your families safe and doing well.