Aid groups alarmed by ‘little to no’ U.S. humanitarian assistance for COVID-19

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More than two dozen international aid organizations have told the U.S. government they are “increasingly alarmed” that “little to no U.S. humanitarian assistance has reached those on the front lines” of the coronavirus pandemic, as the number of new cases picks up speed in some of the world’s most fragile regions.

The letter obtained by The Associated Press and signed by groups including Save the Children, Mercy Corps, World Vision and others says that “in spite of months of promising conversations with USAID field staff, few organizations have received an executed award for COVID-19 humanitarian assistance.”

It calls the delays “devastating” and says the window is closing for the U.S. to help mitigate the worst impacts of the pandemic around the world.

The letter to U.S. Agency for International Development acting administrator John Barsa is dated June 4 — the same day that other USAID officials were touting the U.S. government’s “global leadership” in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“To date, we have committed more than $1 billion to benefit the global COVID response,” Kenneth Staley, the leader of the USAID COVID-19 task force, told reporters covering Africa.

But much of that aid has been tied up in “uncharacteristic delays” nearly three months after the passage of the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, the letter from aid groups says.

“The long delays in COVID-19 awards — and as a result, U.S. response to a dynamic global emergency — stands in stark contrast to our experience in crises where (the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance) is known to turn around funding in a matter of weeks, if not days,” the letter says.

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Other aid organizations signing the letter include CARE USA, the Norwegian Refugee Council USA, American Jewish World Service, WaterAid and Physicians for Peace.

The letter makes clear the aid problem is a global one, pointing out the exponential rise in cases in Pakistan, and saying “the time to move is now.”

For months while promoting U.S. coronavirus assistance, U.S. officials have not given details on the number of crucial items — such as ventilators and testing kits — delivered to countries in Africa, where such equipment has been in short supply for months. And the need is growing.

Cases on the African continent are accelerating, the World Health Organization warned Thursday, saying it took 98 days to reach 100,000 cases and just 18 to reach 200,000. Cases are now above 216,000 with more than 5,000 deaths.


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