October 23, 2020

Gillibrand, Senate Democrats Press Trump Administration To Address And Aid Global Humanitarian Crises Exacerbated By COVID-19 Pandemic

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand led Senate Democrats in pushing the Trump administration to address the global humanitarian crises exacerbated by COVID-19. In a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Acting Administrator John Barsa, Gillibrand and her colleagues slammed the Trump administration’s failure to take the threat of COVID-19 seriously and the inadequate response that has contributed to the loss of thousands of lives and weakened public health security. WHO estimates that child deaths could rise globally for the first time in three decades and the World Bank forecasts that 71 million people worldwide could be pushed into extreme poverty. The senators urged Pompeo and Barsa to implement policies, plans, and programs to aid those in need. 

The letter was signed by U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).  

“The Trump administration’s failures to take COVID-19 seriously, contain the virus domestically, and lead international partners to combat the pandemic have cost countless lives and weakened U.S. influence, standing, and power,” wrote the senators. Foreign Policy reported that you have prohibited U.S. diplomats from even engaging with the WHO, which implements a wide range of life-saving public health programs around the world. Still, it is not too late to limit the health and economic devastation caused by this pandemic. The United States can save lives, strengthen public health security and governance, and prevent population displacement. We hope that you will use this letter as an opportunity to detail your approach to these looming catastrophes, and signal to the Senate Republican leadership that additional emergency supplemental funds are needed to combat COVID-19 overseas.”

The pandemic has disproportionately impacted refugees, people experiencing extreme poverty and failed states who already live in daily crisis. Recent reports from the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Bank, and the World Food Programme have detailed dire consequences. The World Food Programme projected that COVID-19 could double the number of people suffering from life-threatening hunger. 

Full text of the letter can be found here and below.  

October 7, 2020

 

The Honorable Michael Pompeo

Secretary

U.S. Department of State

2201 C Street, NW

Washington, DC 20520

 

The Honorable John Barsa

Acting Administrator

U.S. Agency for International Development

1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20523

 

Dear Secretary Pompeo and Acting Administrator Barsa, 

            We are writing to inquire whether you share the assessments of the World Health Organization (WHO), World Bank, and World Food Programme that the COVID-19 pandemic will greatly exacerbate humanitarian crises around the world, and to ask what policies, plans, and programs you have for extending help to the growing numbers of those in need. 

The Trump Administration’s failures to take COVID-19 seriously, contain the virus domestically, and lead international partners to combat the pandemic have cost countless lives and weakened U.S. influence, standing, and power.  Foreign Policy reported that you have prohibited U.S. diplomats from even engaging with the WHO, which implements a wide range of life-saving public health programs around the world.[1]  Still, it is not too late to limit the health and economic devastation caused by this pandemic. The United States can save lives, strengthen public health security and governance, and prevent population displacement. We hope that you will use this letter as an opportunity to detail your approach to these looming catastrophes, and signal to the Senate Republican leadership that additional emergency supplemental funds are needed to combat COVID-19 overseas. 

            On September 9, 2020 a World Health Organization report revealed that COVID-linked disruptions to the world’s health care systems could cause child deaths to rise globally for the first time in three decades.[2] This avoidable tragedy underscores the varied impacts the pandemic will have on vulnerable populations. In July, the World Bank forecast that 71 million people worldwide could be pushed into extreme poverty because of the economic fallout from responding to the disease.[3] The World Food Programme estimated in April that COVID-19 could double the number of people suffering from life-threatening hunger to 265 million.[4] These grim projections cannot capture the many aid programs that educate, empower, and otherwise assist those in need that either cannot be carried out due to COVID-19, or will have their funding diverted to cover emergent needs. Those living in extreme poverty, refugee camps, and failed states already bear the brunt of these crises, and the impact will only spread with time.

            In order to inform the Congress regarding future humanitarian aid legislation, we request your answers to the following questions: 

  1. Do you agree with the assessments of the World Health Organization, World Bank, and World Food Programme regarding the likely humanitarian impacts triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic? If not, why not?
  2. What assessments are you using and what are the key findings of those assessments?  How are you using the results of those assessments to inform Department of State and USAID policies, plans, and programs?   
  3. What additional funding are you requesting to help other nations and international organizations cope with these humanitarian impacts? 
  4. How have you modified your humanitarian aid policies, plans, and programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic?

Thank you for your assistance.  We look forward to your response.   

Sincerely,