Telephonic Press Briefing on COVID-19 in Africa and the U.S. Response with Ambassador Tibor P. Nagy, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African Affairs

Download or listen to the audio file in English here and Arabic

Department of State

May 6, 2020

Moderator:  Good afternoon to everyone from the U.S. Department of State’s Africa Regional Media Hub.  I would like to welcome our participants dialing in from across the continent and thank all of you for joining this discussion.

Before we begin today’s briefing, I would like to establish the ground rules.  This briefing is – this briefing is on – its full coverage and attribution is to our official, Ambassador Tibor Nagy.  Today, we are so pleased to be joined by Ambassador Tibor Nagy who will deliver remarks at the top of this call.  We will begin today’s briefing with those opening remarks from our speaker and then we will turn to your questions.  We will try to get to as many of them as we can during the time that we have allotted.

Ambassador Nagy – Assistant Secretary Nagy, the floor is yours for opening remarks.

Ambassador Nagy:  Thanks so much, Marissa, and I’ll start with about five minutes of remarks and then we’ll kick it over to all of you guys.

Good morning in Washington and the States, or good afternoon on the continent.  Thanks so much for joining the call today.  I truly hope and pray all of you and your families are well as we endure these unprecedented times and continue to do all we can to get past this and on with our lives.

I’ve been in this job now for nearly two years, coming back to the State Department out of retirement after spending 32 years in the diplomatic corps working primarily on the African continent on African issues.  I can say that after a full career living and working on the continent, I am as optimistic as ever that we are not only going to get through this, but that our relationship with the African people will come out of it even stronger.  I say this from experience and from the knowledge that our commitment to Africa will endure.

In addition to our long-standing partnership on health, we are working together towards good governance, increased trade and investment, enhanced development of Africa’s youth and women’s entrepreneurship, and increased security across the board.  As Secretary Pompeo has repeatedly stressed, now is the time to reinforce America’s long-standing partnership with our African friends.  We have a long history of working together, on meeting public health challenges, and I’m confident that our relationships and shared experiences over decades will help us meet today’s crisis.

Under President Trump, that partnership has continued to grow ever stronger.  We are by far the largest donor nation to Africa and our impact is felt across the board.  The United States has committed more than $100 billion over the past 20 years towards public health on the African continent, trained over 285,000 healthcare workers.  With PEPFAR alone, over 18 million lives were saved in 18 years.

The administration is also actively working to save lives in Africa by fighting Malaria, Ebola, Avian Flu, and Cholera.  The President’s Malaria Initiative, or PMI, has helped save over 7 million lives while preventing over a billion cases of Malaria in the last 20 years.  Where PMI is present, Malaria deaths have seen a 60 percent decline since 2006.

And now, in the fight against COVID-19, that commitment continues.  No other nation is doing more than we are.  Of the more than $780 million the U.S. has pledged worldwide to fight the virus, close to $250 million is geared towards Africa.  And our response goes beyond this new money.  In places such as Ghana, Senegal, Uganda, Sierra Leonne, and Mauritania, field hospitals, tents, and ambulances intended for international peace-keeping missions were repurposed for COVID-19 efforts.  Our mutual trust built over the years has also played a role given the enormous efforts by African Governments, airlines, and others to help repatriate over 10,000 Americans from the continent.

Furthermore, it is not just our government leading; we also have what we call an “all-of-America” approach.  Businesses, NGOs, faith-based organizations have contributed.  Together, Americans have committed nearly $6.5 billion, including the experts whom we have deployed worldwide and those still conducting tutorials via video conference today, and the doctors and the public health professionals who have been trained thanks to U.S. money and educational institutions.

This also is a time to reflect on the importance of transparency.  It’s times like these that show who you can trust and I’m proud to say our African partners have, by and large, been there for us as we have for them.  Unfortunately, there are other actors in this world who have not lived up to that virtue, but rather made it worse through secrecy and deceit.

We recently marked World Press Freedom Day and we note with concern that some countries have used this COVID-19 crisis to further constrain media freedoms, particularly in response to independent reporting relating to the crisis.  Government responses to the COVID-19 pandemic must focus on protecting public health.  Governments should not use the disease as a pretext for repression of people or ideas in the media or elsewhere.  A vibrant, free press is more important than ever to ensure the public receives timely and accurate information about the virus and how to stop its spread.  Government transparency and accountability and freedom of expression, including for members of the media, are critical for an effective response to COVID-19.

As we reflect on the importance of transparency and other matters, such as aid, debt, and health information, the benefits of working with a free and open society versus one that is not is readily apparent.  I trust our African friends will see the difference.

As always, the United States will continue to collaborate with our African partners to address COVID-19 and whatever other challenges come our way.  We will come through this as always for the health and security of the American homeland and the African continent.

With that, I’ll stop and I will be happy to take on your questions.  Over.

Moderator:  Thank you, Assistant Secretary Nagy.  We will now begin the question and answer portion of today’s call.  For those asking questions, please state your name and affiliation and limit yourself to one question related to today’s topic:  The U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa.

For those of you listening to the call in French, Portuguese, and Arabic, we have received some of your questions submitted in advance by email and you may continue to submit your questions in English via email to AFMediaHub@state.gov.

Our first question will go to Hilary Nnoruka of Nigeria Info.  “What is the United States’ response to African countries welcoming Chinese doctors and medical supplies to help deal with the COVID-19 pandemic on the continent?”

Ambassador Nagy:  Well, again, countries are sovereign.  Countries can decide who they are to deal with and in what manners.  Our asking and urging is for transparency, full transparency from all donors, whether it regards assistance on COVID or whether it regards debt alleviation or aid programs in general.

The United States of America, we are very focused on providing assistance across the board, making sure that the material we send is of the highest quality.  So again, the only thing I would say is pick your partners as you will.  We totally support sovereignty and freedom of choice.  Just make sure that you’re making a wise decision.  Over.

Moderator:  Thank you.  Next question – we’ll go to the question and answer queue – goes to Anita Powell of Voice of America.  Operator, please open the line.

Operator:  Your line is open.

Question:  Hello, can you hear me?

Operator:  Your line is open.

Question:  Can you hear me, sir?

Ambassador Nagy:  I can indeed.

Question:  Brilliant.  Thank you so much.  Anita with Voice of America in Johannesburg.

I want to talk about the specific conversations American officials have had with experts from countries like Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leonne, Congo, South Africa, Uganda, just to give a few examples.  These are countries that have successfully managed previous epidemic outbreaks.  I’m just wondering what lessons you’re learning from them, what level of communication you’re having with them, and also, if it could portend, maybe a shift in the balance between the U.S. and some of the partner nations that have long been on the receiving end of U.S. health.

Ambassador Nagy:  Yeah.  That’s a great question.  Of course, we have said that we absolutely recognize expertise wherever it exists, and there are a number of African countries that have – thanks to history of outbreaks, unfortunately, and having to deal with them, that have built up considerable expertise on dealing with a variety of pandemics.  And indeed, through our very close collaboration across the continent, including through the African CDC and the U.S. CDC officials who are actually on assignment throughout Africa, that we have maintained very close collaboration, including with academic institutions, U.S. academic institutions.

That’s why one of the subjects that I mentioned in my introductory remarks what I call a “all-of-America” approach to this so that we are fully engaged, not just with every aspect of the U.S. Government, but with U.S. academia, U.S. NGOs, U.S. faith-based organizations and, very important also, U.S. private sector businesses.  So this is not – this is by no means a one-way communication, because we all have so much to learn from each other.  Over.

Moderator:  Thank you.  Next question goes to Kifaya Ollier of the Independent Arabia Newspaper of the UAE.  “What is the impact of defunding WHO in Africa now during this pandemic?”

Ambassador Nagy:  Yeah, that’s also a very good question and thanks so much for that.  In fact, I think the term defunding is not the correct way to say that.  What the United States of America has said is that we are undertaking a 60 to 90-day evaluation of the World Health Organization’s response during this COVID emergency.

And as Secretary Pompeo himself had said basically, he said with respect to the WHO, we know they had one job, a single mission:  to prevent the spread of the pandemic.  So that did not happen.  It was not the first time of failure, so that is in effect what we are doing.  And as we have been the largest single funder of the WHO, it’s our responsibility, the government, to look after the interests of the U.S. taxpayers who have been funding that to the tune of $400 to $500 million a year.

So again, I would say that the correct term is not defunding, it is stopping funding during the evaluation process.  Over.

Moderator:  Thank you.  The next question goes to our live question and answer queue from Austin Makani of IPP Media in Tanzania.  Operator, please open the line.

Operator:  Your line is open.

Question:  Thank you very much for all the support that the U.S. is rendering to Africa and to Tanzania.  We truly appreciate them.  My question rather is how much of that support is really geared towards research?   Because I think if we are well-empowered to do research, we should be able to bring solutions, possible solutions.  A lot has happened in Madagascar and we appreciate in other countries they are coming with cure – not cure, but some research work is really needed in Africa, for which we need to understand from you is the support that is rendered to Africa, how much is that geared to our research?  Thank you.

Ambassador Nagy:  Yeah, thanks very much for the question.  Unfortunately, I can’t give you dollars and cents as to what the specific components of that are, because the funding that we’re making available is basically across the board from A to Z.  So it includes medical supplies, medical equipment, the ventilators.  Of course, it involves supporting research, it involves medications, it involves supporting healthcare professionals, institutions, and on.

And of course, here’s the important part:  Again, with the United States, it’s not only the CDC, health and human services, other government health agencies that are involved in this, but the hundreds and hundreds of U.S. universities, because so much research is done through universities.  We have a number of the U.S. universities that have very strong partnerships with African universities, with African labs.  So, this really is – it’s a whole-of-world approach.

And I have also seen with interest some of the reports concerning some of the potential treatments to alleviate the illness.  And of course, those have to be looked at very carefully with a scientific analysis, but everybody is going as quickly as possible.  But rest assured that significant funding is going to the research.  And I said, we have people from the CDC throughout the African continent who are working and collaborating very closely with their host country counterparts, through the U.S. embassies, through the host country governments, to make sure that there is a full flow of information in both directions.  Over.

Moderator:  Thank you.  We’ll return to our question and answer queue.  The next question goes to Kevin Kelley of Nation Media Group.  Operator, open the line.

Operator:  Your line is open.

Question:  Hi, thanks for doing this today, very helpful.  So, Ambassador Nagy, I’m wondering to what extent the United States is encouraging African governments to be as forthcoming as they possibly can regarding infection rates and death rates.  I’m thinking specifically in Tanzania where there’s been a number of critics in Tanzania who are saying the government is not realistically reporting the results of testing, and testing for that matter is pretty inadequate.  And that may also be the case throughout the continent, that testing is not giving us a true reading of the scope of the pandemic.  What is the United States’ view of all of that?  Thanks.

Ambassador Nagy:  Yeah, thanks, Kevin, for the question.  As I said in my introductory remarks, one of the key themes that is very important to the United States Government is full transparency in all matters.  It’s – whether it’s research, whether it’s reporting, whether it’s when a donor community looks at how we’re going to help African countries alleviate their debt, and on and on.  So, the sanctity and the trueness of the data is critically important, and what are the possible reasons why there is not full transparency or availability?  Some of it can be malicious, some of it can be innocent.

Governments withhold data on purpose to obfuscate the truth or try to keep the truth from getting out.  That is absolutely malevolent.  On the other hand, we know with some governments, there are severe limitations – number of test kits available, the quality of some of the test kits that they’ve gotten from certain sources.  So, the intent behind it I think is very important.

Also, as you well know, Kevin, in Africa we do have the situation where Africa still – majority of the population is still rural, and it’s very, very difficult to do testing in so many parts of the continent, whereas it’s much more available in the urban areas.  But there, again, there may be limitations on the availability of the material.

So, our embassies are keeping a very close watch on what’s going on in their countries.  They are reporting it to us.  They’re also engaging with their governments.  And one of our messages to governments is that it’s critically important for the entire globe, for everybody to be as forthcoming and transparent as possible regarding these, because it’s absolutely vital for everybody to know that the data is correct so that we can act accordingly.  Over.

Moderator:  Thank you.  The next question goes to Kokou Togaba Kataka of TOGO-PRESSE in Togo.  “What is the total U.S. contribution in Africa in response to the COVID-19 pandemic?”

Ambassador Nagy:  Okay, that’s a great question.  And it seems like I should be able to just give one number for that, but that would be a little bit simplistic.  I think that I said in my remarks that the above and beyond funding that we have made available to Africa, specifically for the COVID emergency, has been $247 million.  $247 million.  But we have to also remember that the annual U.S. aid to Africa is $7.1 billion out of which $5.2 billion goes to health alone.  And that we have given – as I said in my introductory remarks – incredible amounts of money to Africa over the last 20 years, and much of that money went to things like helping African countries build up their health systems, training African health workers.

So the money we’re giving now, yes, I believe it’s quite generous, but we have to also see that in the light of what we give aside from that, which also is helping African countries prepare for this kind of an emergency.  Like I said also, for America it’s not just the government that gives; it’s our private sector.  For example, I’ve been reading report after report of how much individual U.S. companies that are engaged in Africa are also contributing to this, or our NGOs, our faith communities, our churches in the United States tend to be extremely generous and very altruistic in doing work in Africa.

So, while the – for example, total U.S. Government response to the COVID – very generous.  $2.4 billion.  But if you add to that American private sector, American NGOs, and the American faith-based community, that number gets kicked up to $6.5 billion.  So, it’s almost three times as much.  So, the United States – and this is the people of the United States – are I think being about as generous as they can be in helping the globe confront this horrendous, horrendous emergency.  Over.

Moderator: Thank you.  Next question goes to our queue to Pearl Matibe of NewsDay.  Operator, open the line.

Operator:  Your line is open.

Question:  Thank you very much.  Thank you very much.  I always appreciate your availability.  My name is Pearl.  I’m with NewsDay Zimbabwe, based in Washington, D.C.  My question specifically focuses on four SADC countries: Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.  What can you share about the challenge of insurgence in Northern Mozambique?  And please explain what criteria you used to determine how much these four countries would get, given that people there say they will die of hunger first before they die of coronavirus since have not conducted sufficient widespread testing.

For instance, I wanted to ask, the WFP, which I believe is one of your partners, is giving cash transfers to vulnerable groups.  Can the U.S. consider giving cash transfers to doctors and nurses who have only been promised 30 U.S. Dollars risk allowance per month by the Zimbabwean Governments and are not motivated to put their lives at risk?  And I ask this question because I’ve asked this question to the State Department before, but haven’t received a response as of yet.  I’m hoping you can share some clear responses.  Thank you so much.

Ambassador Nagy:  Yeah, thanks very much for the question.  Unfortunately, you’re not going to get a specific response from me today either because I don’t have that information available.  But I’m happy you mentioned the World Food Program because that is an example of a multilateral agency which works very well.  The United States of America, by the way – it may be a World Food Program benefit, but I think it’s important to note that the United States of America contributes 42 percent of the budget of the World Food Program.

So, to answer the gist of your questions, number one, the insurgency in Northern Mozambique is quite worrying.  That has grown from a very small movement to a much larger movement over the last year, year and a half, and we’re hoping very much that Mozambique will give full attention to addressing that in a very systematic manner.  Because for example, unfortunately, I have compared that in some of my public remarks to the rise of Boko Haram in Nigeria.  Boko Haram was just a small movement, and because of the way the Nigerian Government initially responded to it, it grew into a – into a very serious threat, not just to northeast Nigeria, but to surrounding countries.

So, we know that the insurgency in northern Mozambique and Cabo Delgado is in an isolated part of the country.  It is most remote from Maputo.  It’s also a part of the country which has different linguistic and cultural and societal patterns from much of the rest of Mozambique, and it also borders Southern Tanzania, which on the other side happens to be the most remote part of Tanzania.  So, our embassy, along with some partners, are engaged fully with the Mozambican Government to discuss the best ways to respond to that insurgency to keep it from becoming the type of threat that Boko Haram has become in Nigeria.

Now, as far as how we go about selecting those four countries, I’m not going to get into the sausage making on that, but rest assured it is a very intense, deliberative process between the State Department, USAID, other U.S. Government agencies, because as you can imagine, the needs are always going to be much, much, much greater than the available resources.  We, the American people, will be as generous as we possibly can be, but there is no way that we will be able to meet every single need everywhere.  Even all of the international community working together is not able to meet every need everywhere.

That’s why I have said so many times in my public remarks that the way to make sure that we achieve a prosperous, stable Africa, especially for all of these millions and millions of new young people who are coming on the scene and will be looking for good jobs, is to really get serious about attracting the kind of foreign direct investment, which has enabled other parts of the world to progress from poverty to prosperity.  And hopefully, one of the things we’re looking at specifically to Africa are the types of programs and policies that we can engage with on the continent so that coming out of this pandemic, Africa can look to a much brighter future.  Over.

Moderator:  Thank you.  Next question goes to Koffi Eugene of Le Media Citoyen in Cote D’Ivoire.  The question is, “A proposal for debt moratorium for African countries after coronavirus was tabled.  As it will be very difficult for African economies even beyond this moratorium, does the United States have in mind any kind of support plan for African states?”

Ambassador Nagy:  Yeah, that’s a great question too.  And obviously, we are just in the early part of examining what the various policies are that we can pursue in that regard, because it will be absolutely in the interest of everybody that, as I said when Africa comes out of this, to be able to get on the road to prosperity as quickly as possible.  African economies coming into this, some of them were the fastest-growing economies on Earth.  Obviously, this is going to have a devastating economic impact on the entire continent, so the question going to be coming out of this:  How can we work together to get back on the road, first, to economic recovery, then on the road to economic prosperity?

The G20 has made its initial first step.  I know that various international institutions, international partners, are in very close deliberations on potential next steps, what can we do next.  And here, I want to go back to some of the introductory comments I made about the critical importance of transparency.  Africa has a number of bilateral debtors around the world and it will be very important for all of those countries that hold African debt to act together, to act in a very transparent way as to how they will address the debt so that it is not opaque, it’s not done under the table, but it’s done so that everybody can see what is truly involved in these kind of transactions.  Over.

Moderator:  Thank you.  Back to our question queue.  Our next question will go to Anna, Cara, of the Associated Press.  Operator, please open the line.

Operator:  Your line is open.

Question:  Hi, thanks.  Thanks for this.  Has the U.S. started donating ventilators and test kits to African nations and which ones?  And how will the U.S. help ensure that Africa won’t be at the end of the line for a coronavirus vaccine?

Ambassador Nagy:  How will it be at the end of the line – what was the question?

Question:  For a coronavirus vaccine.

Ambassador Nagy:  Oh, okay.  Well, on the coronavirus vaccine, I – right now, I’m just praying that we will be able to come up with a coronavirus vaccine as quickly as possible.  Everybody is working on that together.  The sooner, the better.

And we, the United States, on our health assistance, I think as soon as – for example, I was very closely involved and watched the whole history of the HIV/AIDS tragedy from its emergence to finally when we were able to treat it – initial steps, initial missteps, and then thank god for PEPFAR.  And I think the United States did backward flips to make sure that African populations received the medication as quickly as possible.  So, I’m assuming that it will be the same kind of effort once a vaccine is developed.  And again, may god give it to us as quickly as possible.

The President of the United States has had several phone calls with African heads of state, leaders, discussing their needs, the types of medical equipment.  I wish I could tell you exactly what has been sent, how many, where.  I don’t have that information.  If I was to give you a number right now, by the time this conversation ended, that number will have changed.  So, I think it’ll be much better, when all is said and done, to look at the cumulative numbers then because this is very much a many moving pieces right now.  So, I cannot give you an accurate count on that.  Over.

Moderator:  All right.  Our next question goes to Daniel Quequexi, a reporter from the National Radio of Angola.  “COVID-19 has had an impact on oil production.  Angola is a member state of OPEC, with whom the USA has diverging position.  How does the USA look at its criticisms of OPEC and the need to assist Angola under the strategic partnership between the two nations?

Ambassador Nagy:  Yeah.  I don’t believe that we have ever criticized Angola for being a member of OPEC.  I think historically we have had some differences on some of the OPEC policies having more to do with supply and demand and global economic forces than the fact that the organization exists.

Angola, on the other hand, has been growing in importance as a U.S. bilateral partner.  I have said publicly on a number of occasions how much we would like to congratulate President Lourenço for the efforts he has taken since coming into the presidency regarding especially his anti-corruption efforts, which have shown more and more his seriousness in wanting to take Angola down a totally different path than it has gone before.

So, we very much look forward to continuing to develop our partnership with Angola.  Angola will remain and will become more so a growing, attractive site for U.S. trade and investment, for U.S. corporations to visit.  So, we’re very, very happy with our partnership with Angola and look forward to taking it to new levels in the future.  And we will certainly maintain our partnership during this pandemic, including working together to try to mitigate it as much as possible.  Over.

Moderator:  Thank you.  The next question goes to Nick Turse of Yahoo! News.  Operator, please open the line.  Your line is open.

Question:  Thank you very much for taking these calls today, Ambassador Nagy.  You and Secretary General Antonio Guterres have repeatedly appealed for a global ceasefire amid the COVID-19 outbreak.  Has the failure of belligerents on the African continent to adhere to a ceasefire affected the COVID-19 response?  And if so, how, and what should be done about it?

Ambassador Nagy:  Yeah.  A couple – I’m glad you asked that question because there’s a couple of things that I’ve asked specifically for our embassies to look at.  One is, are some countries going to use the COVID emergency to increase authoritarian tendencies, increase suppression of the media, which is very sad, especially coming a couple of days after World Press Freedom Day?  Another is to see if the violent extremist organizations are using the opportunity they may get from disruptions caused by the COVID pandemic to increase their activities or increase their areas of operation.

So that is something that is very much ongoing.  Obviously, governments that are being victimized by these extremist organizations, it’s very difficult for them to declare a ceasefire if they are being blown up, or like what happened in Mogadishu last week, mortar shells fall inside of the airport, or if in Chad the extremist ISIS West Africa ambushed and attacks a Chadian base and kills a number of Chadian soldiers, and on and on.

It would be phenomenal if there could be a ceasefire.  And unfortunately, given the types of conflicts that we are suffering in Africa, it’s – there are really no clear command and control structures in some of these violent extreme organizations, so they are very difficult to implement that.  But like I said, it’s one of those areas of keen interest because I fear that, instead of going towards a ceasefire, some of these organizations are going to try to be opportunistic and use the pandemic to advance their own violent agendas.  Over.

Moderator:  Thank you.  Next question goes to Brooks Spector on our queue.  Operator, please open the line.

Question:  Good morning, and thank you for joining this conversation.  Appreciate this very much.  I wanted – I’m from the Daily Maverick based in Johannesburg.  It’s circulating worldwide, obviously on the internet.  I was going to ask about WHO, but that’s been preempted, so let me go to plan B.  And as you will remember during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, American and Cuban medical teams found a way to work together – gingerly, perhaps tentatively – but they succeeded in some forms of cooperation.

What is your reaction, the government’s reaction, to the arrival of Cuban medical teams in Africa, and more specifically, a large contingent in South Africa?  Do you have any views on that?  Do you have any questions or concerns about it?

Ambassador Nagy:  Yeah.  Yeah, here’s the thing.  On Cubans, government – African governments, I know, have – some of them, especially – a long history of dealing with Cuban medical personnel.  Our view on countries’ use of Cuban medical personnel:  If the countries will pay the Cubans for their services directly, we have been able to accept that.  The problem becomes when countries pay a considerable amount of money to the government of Cuba and that the medical professionals themselves are not paid.

Again, unless it’s something that contravenes a United Nations Security Council resolution with certain countries, we do – we respect countries for their sovereignty and their views and their own individual ties, despite how we may feel about somebody.  But Cuba has a long history of sending medical personnel.  Our problem has been on the way that countries pay for those medical experts.  So, we recognize South Africa’s long history and long relations with a number of other countries in southern Africa.  And as you said, during the Ebola crisis, there were certain mechanisms made.  Over.

Moderator:  Thank you.  The next question goes to Juanita Sallah in the queue.  Operator, please open the line.

Operator:  Your line is open.

Question:  Hello, good morning.  I believe that it is noble what the U.S. is doing in terms of aid to African nations and other parts of the world, but how does this impact your internal response to COVID-19?  Because the American people and businesses are suffering, too.

Ambassador Nagy:  I’m sorry.  I didn’t get the gist of that question.  Over.

Moderator:  Yes.  Juanita, can you please repeat it?  Yes, okay.

Question:  Okay, all right.  So, I was saying that it is noble what the U.S. is doing in terms of aid to African nations and other parts of the world.  But how does this impact your internal response to COVID-19?  Because the American people and businesses are suffering, too.  [Inaudible.]

Ambassador Nagy:  Yes, thank you very much for that question.  Absolutely.  Our economy, just like everybody else’s, has taken a major, major hit.  It’s incredible; I don’t think any of us in our lifetime have seen this kind of a disaster that not only hits the health of our nations but also the economies of our nations.  And we can only pray that our recovery will come very, very quickly.

But here is the truth that we all know about COVID and other kinds of pandemics:  Viruses and bacteria do not respect borders.  The COVID virus does not need a visa to go from one country to another.  So, I think all of us are obligated to help everywhere to keep this virus away from everywhere.  So, while the American people are also undergoing a sacrifice, we understand that it is our obligation to help around the world because it started in one city, as far as we know, in Wuhan, China, and it has now ended up, I think, in every corner of the world.

So, we have to be generous.  The United States of America, thanks to God’s blessings, is a highly developed country.  We have incredible resources.  And we are now obligated to use those resources not only to help and safeguard our own people, but to be as helpful as we can around the world.  Over.

Moderator:  Thank you, sir.  We have just one last question, and another as you get ready to give us some of your final words.  We had lots of journalists who wanted to ask what the U.S. was doing individually in each country, and so if you could just summarize and give a global, maybe more information on this all-of-America approach and how it is touching all of these countries in your closing remarks, that would be helpful.

This last question comes from Nigeria, from Senator Iroegbu from the Global Sentinel.  Is the U.S. willing to collaborate and fund research and development of local African vaccines for COVID-19 and other infectious diseases like what Madagascar and Nigeria are doing?

Ambassador Nagy:  Yeah, and I think I’ve touched on that before because, as I said, the United States has extensive, extensive ties across the African continent – institution to institution, country to country, university to university, lab to lab.  We have U.S. personnel from CDC, from Health and Human Services, other U.S. labs, around the continent that they are undertaking very close collaboration with their African colleagues, and the research is going back and forth.  They are accelerating; normally, the type of research that would take quite a long time, much more extensive tests, are being accelerated so that the world could get a vaccine as quickly as possible.

So yes indeed, this is going on all over Africa.  And who knows what – where a solution might be found.  The important thing is that these things have to be tested properly and then we’ll see where it goes.  But I can assure you that there’s just incredible collaboration because of the number of countries that U.S. health programs have impacted.  Somebody asked about countries.  For example, our PEPFAR is active in 50 countries.  Our President’s Malaria Initiative is active in 27 countries.  We’re doing maternal and child health in 25 countries.  We have global health security, global disease detection, in 32 countries; immunization and polio eradication in 30 countries; tuberculosis 25 countries; field of immunology training in 70 countries.  We do biomedical research worldwide, Feed the Future and Food for Peace in 60 countries.

And I think it’s important to mention the food aspect because we’ve talked about the medical devastation of COVID.  We’ve talked a little bit about the economic devastation of COVID.  Now let’s look at parts of East Africa, which are not only being – suffering from COVID, but they also have locust infestation.  Some places have now excessive rainfall and flooding.  And we all know full well that this will lead to hunger in the future, unfortunately, so some countries will obviously need emergency food assistance.  And there again, I think we can count on the United States as the one country in the world which can literally come up with hundreds of thousands of tons of food relief – I don’t think anybody else can – and get it on the scene very quickly.  That’s one of the other that we’re looking at or looking ahead into the future.

So together, together, we will resolve this.  And when Africa comes out of this, the United States will be there so that we can really move forward.  And hopefully, the future will be brighter because we will take a systematic approach to really working with each of the countries to make them able to get back on the road to recovery.  And as I said, my dream is not just recovery but onward to prosperity after we get out of this.  Over.

Moderator:  That concludes today’s on-the-record call.  I want to thank the Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of African Affairs, Tibor P. Nagy, for joining us.  And thank you to all of the callers for participating.  If you have any questions about todays’ call, you may contact the Africa Regional Media Hub at afmediahub@state.gov.  Thank you.

 

# # # #