Remarks as prepared for Teresa McGhie, USAID Mission Director in Myanmar
Virtual press briefing
July 22, 2020
The U.S. Agency for International Development, also known as USAID, is providing more than $14.3 million to the people of Myanmar during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is in addition to our $150 million annual budget for on-going programs in health, humanitarian assistance, agriculture and inclusive economic growth, and democracy, governance and human rights.
Weeks before the first case of COVID was detected in Myanmar, I met with the Union Minister of Health and Sports, His Excellency Dr. Myint Htwe, to deliver an early supply of personal protective equipment, PPE, and to discuss next steps. By mid-March, USAID had mobilized $1.8 million to prepare Myanmar’s health care providers to safely combat the spread of infection, including those who work for ethnic health organizations in underserved and conflict-affected areas. We used this early funding to provide laboratory equipment and supplies to support the expansion of testing for COVID-19 and to get information out quickly to families and communities to educate people on how to prevent and respond to the transmission of COVID-19.
Since April, USAID has programmed an additional $6.5 million in health funding and $6 million in humanitarian assistance to provide additional support to the people of Myanmar, with an emphasis on reaching underserved and vulnerable communities in camps for internally displaced persons, IDPs, ethnic communities, and conflict-affected communities with health services, water and sanitation supplies, and social and protection services.
With USAID’s support, the Access to Health Fund has already distributed half a million dollars to civil society organizations working in Rakhine, Chin, Kachin, Shan, Sagaing, Kayah, Kayin, Mon, and Yangon. These include 34 ethnic and community based health organizations. The Fund also donated 220,000 sets of PPE to the Ministry of Health and Sports last week, with the understanding that the Ministry will distribute 100,000 of the PPE sets to ethnic and community-based health organizations, to support health care staff and volunteers who are conducting screenings, testing, contract tracing, or assisting people in quarantine facilities. This $6.4 million supply of PPE and COVID-19 testing supplies was funded by UKAID, USAID, the Swedish government, and the Swiss Development and Cooperation Agency.
In addition to the new funding for the COVID-19 response, USAID’s on-going programs have adapted and innovated their operations to continue to work while maintaining all necessary precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We are working with the Union Election Commission to ensure the Myanmar people can cast their votes safely on November 8 in polling places designed to maintain sanitation and social distancing. We supported giving several months of medicine up front to people with TB and HIV so they don’t have to travel to a clinic, and we provided PPE to community malaria volunteers to safely continue prevention, rapid testing and treatment of malaria.
USAID’s programs work to build resilience in conflict-affected communities. Our agriculture programs are surveying farmers, processors, and other actors in food systems on the economic impact of COVID-19 in Shan, Kachin, Sagaing, Magway, and the market hub in Mandalay. Our findings and recommendations are informing how the Government of Myanmar, the World Bank, and the private sector are managing the economic response and recovery. Our microfinance partners and our Market Systems Development Fund are working with farmers and agro-businesses to ensure financing is available to keep food flowing from farmers to markets. USAID and the other donors are supporting the Livelihoods and Food Security Fund, LIFT, to program $25.5 million for COVID-19 response activities including employment for vulnerable garment workers to produce over 1.2 million reusable masks; direct assistance to over one million internal and returning migrants; and support to microfinance institutions to make $18 million in capital available to households and small businesses in areas hit hard by COVID-19, with a further $35 million soon to be made available.
Millions of people in Myanmar are benefitting directly from this USAID support, which reflects our commitment to the people of Myanmar to work together to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m happy to provide further detail on these efforts during the question and answer session.
### END ###