When times are tough, one can rely on a true friend to lend a helping hand. Through the American people’s generosity and the U.S. government’s action, the United States continues to demonstrate global leadership in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the fight against COVID-19, the United States remains the largest single country donor to the response efforts globally, building on decades of leadership in security cooperation and life-saving health and humanitarian assistance.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the U.S. Government has committed more than $900 million in more than 120 countries in emergency health, humanitarian, economic and development assistance specifically aimed at helping governments, international organizations, and NGOs fight the pandemic. In addition to this assistance meeting the most urgent needs, U.S. government departments and agencies are also seeking creative applications of previously delivered aid to support allies and partners around the world.
Here in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, along with our colleagues in the Department’s regional bureaus, we worked with the Congress to allow:
- U.S-provided medical equipment and training delivered to Ghana, Malawi, Rwanda, Senegal, and Uganda for their use in international peacekeeping operations to temporarily bolster their domestic responses to the challenge of COVID-19 pandemic. Outside of Africa, we authorized similar measures for North Macedonia as well.
- The temporary loan of tents, ambulances, and other equipment and the permanent transfer of mattresses and cots to Sierra Leone from the U.S.-funded logistics depot in Sierra Leone (this includes equipment for peacekeeping and counterterrorism purposes) to support their response to COVID-19.
- Chad and Mauritania’s temporary use of U.S.-provided ambulances, medical, and other equipment originally procured for counterterrorism purposes to support their response to COVID-19.
These efforts offer a timely example of how U.S. long-term investments in peacekeeping and counterterrorism capacity building pays significant dividends; making a positive difference when and where it matters most.
Ghana, Malawi, Rwanda, Senegal, and Uganda have long demonstrated their support for international peacekeeping. They all deployed personnel to support UN and African Union missions in some of today’s most challenging peace operations, including the Central African Republic; the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, Somalia, and/or South Sudan. Under U.S. initiatives such as the 54-nation Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI) and the regionally focused six-nation African Peacekeeping Rapid Response Partnership (APRRP), we encourage countries willing to step up to the challenge of peacekeeping by helping them develop key capabilities, such as combat medicine, logistics, engineering, and aviation ̶all of which are critical enablers, essential to mission success.
U.S. security assistance capacity building programs are now making an additional contribution as the world addresses the COVID-19 pandemic, which, like many transnational threats we face today, do not respect borders and require a resolute and unified response. Previously delivered field hospitals and ambulances – and in some cases, personnel trained for peacekeeping operations in recent years – are now working to support COVID-19 response in their own countries.
Ghana, Rwanda, Senegal, and Uganda all deployed field hospitals to support their respective COVID-19 domestic response efforts. Ghana deployed one of its two field hospitals to treat COVID-19 patients. Rwanda also deployed its hospital but is using it primarily to provide overflow capacity and open up hospital space for COVID-19 patients. If necessary, it may use it to treat COVID-19 patients. Additionally, Senegal deployed its field hospital to provide overflow capacity and open up hospital space for COVID-19 patients, and so far conducted more than 2,411 medical consultations for non-COVID patients. Finally, Uganda deployed its field hospital to support domestic response demonstrating capabilities to transport, isolate, and treat patients suffering from COVID-19.
Sierra Leone hosts the U.S.-funded regional Logistics and Equipment Depot (LED), which, over the years, has supported equipment for urgent deployments for peacekeeping and counterterrorism operation for countries in West Africa. The current loan of tents and other equipment – along with the permanent transfer of cots and mattresses – to support their response to COVID-19 will enable their efforts to isolate the moderately sick. This effort is the second time the LED supported Sierra Leone’s effort in a crisis. Back in 2014, the U.S. authorized the temporary loan of three ambulances from the LED for Sierra Leone’s response to the Ebola crisis.
Chad and Mauritania are partners in the U.S-funded Trans Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP) which is building their capacity to counter terrorist threats in the region including as part of the G5 Sahel Joint Force. The U.S. authorized the temporary use of ambulances for both countries and a military medical hospital in Mauritania to support their response to COVID-19. We appreciate that the two states are intending to temporarily use the authorized assistance to support their efforts to respond to COVID-19.
As global response evolves, we continue to seek opportunities to temporarily repurpose previously delivered U.S. security sector capacity building assistance to enable U.S. partners to meet domestic needs as required.
Building security partnerships around the world is a key tool of diplomacy and an investment in America’s national security. Assisting to train strong, capable security cooperation partners abroad ultimately keeps us safer here at home. Smart, long-term U.S. foreign assistance investments focused on security sector capacity building help allies and partners acquire key capabilities essential to safeguarding their countries and work together more effectively with the United States to meet shared security challenges. Through investments in peacekeeping and counterterrorism capacity building, we enable our allies and partners to respond quickly and decisively to unforeseen crises, and demonstrate the United States remains the global security partner of choice.
About the Author: R. Clarke Cooper serves as the Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.