Op-Ed: America’s Unwavering Aid
By David J. Young
Chargé d’Affaires, a.i., U.S. Embassy
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.
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.
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 affect whole countries, regions, and before they reach our shores.
The United States’ unsurpassed contributions are also felt through the many international organizations fighting COVID-19 on the front lines.
As the largest funder of the World Health Organization since its founding in 1948, the United States has given more than $400 million to the institution in 2019—nearly double the second-largest contribution. Similarly, the United States backed the UN Refugee Agency with nearly $1.7 billion in 2019, more than all other member states combined. We also gave $3.4 billion to the World Food Program and $700 million to the United Nations Children’s Fund—both 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.
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.
The United States funds nearly 40 percent 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, U.S. taxpayers have generously funded more than $100 billion in health assistance and nearly $70 billion in humanitarian assistance globally.
It’s also why the United States has long been Zambia’s top bilateral donor through direct, non-debt assistance, at no cost to the Zambian people. Our investment of $500 million per year provides life-saving medication to over one million HIV-infected Zambians, to Zambians affected by malaria and TB, and to improve maternal and child health. Moreover, U.S. government assistance extends well beyond the health sector. We work in partnership with the Zambian government, civil society, and the private sector to support more accountable, citizen-responsive governance. Our assistance helps unleash private sector investment needed to overcome widespread rural poverty and sustainably manage natural resources, expands high-quality literacy programs in schools, and promotes the security of Zambia.
Our help is much more than money and supplies. It’s the experts and technical assistance 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. assistance 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. U.S. businesses, NGOs, and faith-based organizations have given at least $1.5 billion to fight the pandemic overseas. U.S. 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 United States 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.