As the world continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Department of State and United States Agency for International Development yesterday reaffirmed their commitment to assisting The Bahamas in dealing with the pandemic and also becoming more resilient in the face of an increasing number of hurricanes.
During a telephone roundtable on the subject yesterday, Director of the U.S. State Department’s Office of Caribbean Affairs Katherine Dueholm said: “Just in general, we have spent a fair amount of time and attention working with The Bahamas as one of our very close friends in the region.
“We have recently announced $750,000 for health assistance which will focus on things like risk communication and community engagement, infection prevention and control, surveillance and rapid response and strengthening case management. So, that will all certainly help strengthen the response to COVID-19.
“And…I just want to say that in addition to the $34 million in assistance that we’ve provided during [Hurricane] Dorian, that over the past 20 years we’ve provided $143 million in total assistance, of which $264,000 was for health assistance.
“So, there has been an ongoing effort. There is a continuing focus on that and we will look to see other ways that we might be able to support The Bahamas and other friends in the Caribbean. We do know that the post-COVID time is going to be particularly difficult for economic recovery and we will certainly be looking to see ways in which we can support in that regard as well.”
Dueholm said that the efforts are part of a plan for the United States to deepen its engagement with the Caribbean region, noting that: “We have many of the same challenges with human trafficking to hurricanes, and we have many of the same opportunities. So there’s a lot for us to work together on.”
She added, “I think one very tangible aspect of that is our focus on an area of great concern for the region, and that’s the increasing number of natural disasters.
“And to that end we’ve responded with our Caribbean partners by building a U.S.-Caribbean Resilient Partnership and that’s an opportunity for us to focus on ways we can work together going forward to help ensure that the Caribbean is more resilient and better to withstand some of these challenges that will be confronting us in the future.
“…So, we have done a good deal to help in the Caribbean. Our assistance has taken a couple of different tactics and in terms of monetary terms, our assistance to the region has totaled over $22 million in response to the pandemic.”
Some of the assistance made to countries throughout the region include the donation of COVID-19 testing kits, direct funding provided from the CDC and a variety of efforts through USAID – which were outlined by USAID Acting Director for the Office of Caribbean Affairs Tina Basin.
Speaking to The Bahamas specifically, Basin said, “We reaffirm our commitment in standing with The Bahamas in terms of your needs and assistance during hurricane disaster response and resilience.
“We have several ongoing programs. There is no expected change in that regard at all.”