The United States Is Assisting Pacific Island Countries To Respond to COVID-19

(STL.News) – As the leader in global health and humanitarian response to COVID-19, the United States has acted swiftly to monitor, respond to, and mitigate the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in Pacific island countries.  The Department of State is closely coordinating with U.S. interagency partners including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Department of the Interior (DOI), Department of Defense (DOD), and U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM).  While the U.S. response for the U.S. Freely Associated States—Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of the Marshall Islands, and Palau—is based on our unique, historic, and special relationships underpinned by our Compacts of Free Association, we will continue to support all the Pacific island countries.  We are coordinating closely with Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Taiwan, and other like-minded partners on COVID-19 assistance to the Pacific.

New Funding to Support the Pacific in Responding to COVID-19

As of April 17, the U.S. Government has provided over $32 million in funding to support the COVID-19 response in Pacific island countries, including:

Over $27.5 million from a variety of federal agencies (DOI, CDC, HHS, USAID) to the Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, and Palau
$3.3 million from USAID to the Pacific islands region
$1.2 million from USAID to Papua New Guinea

Regional Coordination with Like-Minded Partners

At the regional level, CDC, USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, U.S. Embassy Suva, and the Pacific Islands Health Officers’ Association (PIHOA) are coordinating with the Fiji-based Pacific Joint Incident Management Team, which is leading the regional response to COVID-19.  The U.S. Government is also participating in the newly expanded coordination forum led by the UN Resident Coordinator Office—the Pacific Humanitarian Team—that convenes all active sectors responding to the COVID-19 crisis, including health, water, sanitation, hygiene, logistics, food security, protection, and emergency telecommunications.  We have been coordinating closely with partners including Australia and New Zealand on delivery of medical and other humanitarian supplies to the Pacific islands.

U.S. Response in the Pacific Islands

On March 18, the U.S. Government announced the release of $62 million from the Emergency Reserve Fund for Contagious Infectious-Disease Outbreaks at USAID to address the global COVID-19 pandemic.  On March 27, USAID announced it will provide $1.2 million for Papua New Guinea and $2.3 million for the Pacific islands to provide expert help to these governments.  Funded activities will include lab preparation, infection control, case and contact tracing, and public-health communications.

Of the $2.3 million for the Pacific islands, $600,000 has gone to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to support water, sanitation, hygiene, and communications activities in the Federated States of Micronesia and Marshall Islands.

On April 16, the U.S. Government announced the release of additional humanitarian assistance from USAID’s International Disaster Assistance (IDA).  The Pacific islands will receive $1 million in IDA humanitarian assistance to support risk communication, infection prevention and control, logistics, coordination efforts, and more.

U.S. Response in Papua New Guinea

On April 13, the U.S. Embassy in Port Moresby announced that the USAID commitment of $1.2 million (4.2 million PGK) will be used to prepare laboratory systems, activate case-finding and event-based surveillance, support technical experts for response and preparedness, risk communication, infection prevention and control, and more.

U.S. Response in the Freely Associated States

The U.S. CDC is the lead agency on COVID-19 response in the Freely Associated States.  To determine needs and provide guidance and assistance, CDC communicates regularly with health departments in the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, and Palau.  The CDC also leads a weekly call with healthcare professionals in the Freely Associated States and U.S. Pacific territories, and a separate weekly call with U.S. agencies, including State, DOI, HHS, INDOPACOM, and USAID.

For many years, CDC has engaged with the Freely Associated States to develop and refine emergency response plans, including response plans for pandemic influenza, through the Public Health Emergency Preparedness Program.  CDC is collaborating with regional partners to help the Freely Associated States adapt and apply their existing national response plans for the current COVID-19 threat.  CDC is providing technical assistance and exploring funding options to support established regional mechanisms, such as the Pacific Islands Health Officers’ Association (PIHOA), for infectious disease response.

Supplemental Funding:  Fifty-five million dollars has been made directly available to the U.S. territories and the Freely Associated States in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed by Congress and signed by President Trump on March 27.  Funding provided under the CARES Act will address impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in the islands through the DOI Office of Insular Affairs’ Technical Assistance Program.

Federated States of Micronesia received $7,737,390
Marshall Islands received $3,894,720
Palau received $1,592,945

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) received a share of the U.S. Government’s recent $8.3 billion supplemental funding package for coronavirus-related research and assistance.  It has allocated some of these funds to a CDC program assisting U.S. states, territories, and the FAS.  Initial awards were announced on March 16 and supplemented on April 1.

Federated States of Micronesia received $1,261,207.60
Marshall Islands received $1,103,263.40
Palau received $1,010,380.50

HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) announced on March 24 that it will provide $100 million to aid U.S. healthcare systems in preparing quickly for a surge in COVID-19 patients.  On March 30, ASPR awarded $42 million to the 62 Hospital Preparedness Program cooperative agreement recipients and their 59 state or jurisdiction special pathogen treatment centers.  The funds may be used for planning, staffing, purchasing PPE, enhancing existing surveillance systems, training, and enhancing hospital or health care capacity.

Federated States of Micronesia received $27,663
Marshall Islands received $26,168
Palau received $25,650

On March 24, HHS Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) awarded $100 million to 1,381 health centers in the United States and the Freely Associated States with funding provided by the CARES Act, 2020.  On April 8, HRSA awarded more than $1.3 billion to 1,387 health center grantees in all U.S. states, territories, and the FAS.  HRSA-funded health centers may use the awards to address screening and testing needs, acquire medical supplies, and boost telehealth capacity in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Federated States of Micronesia received $3,110,629 to support 5 health center grantees in Chuuk (1), Kosrae (2), Pohnpei (1), and Yap (1).
Marshall Islands received $926,857 to support 1 health center grantee in Ebeye.
Palau received $1,248,903 to support 1 health center grantee.

Compact Funding:  The Joint Economic Management Committee, comprised of U.S. and Micronesian government representatives, approved $1,650,000 for Yap and $1,403,800 for Chuuk in prior-year unallocated Compact sector grant funding to be used for health-related COVID-19 preparedness and planning.  For Kosrae, $1,205,922 in Compact infrastructure sector grant assistance was approved for construction of a 24-unit COVID quarantine facility.  In addition, $416,918 in prior-year Compact Infrastructure Maintenance Fund assistance has been provided to Chuuk to assist with hospital infrastructure preparedness.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE):  The HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Federal Emergency Management Agency provided allocations of PPE to the Freely Associated States on April 9.

Testing:  The United States is supporting COVID-19 testing for the Freely Associated States and U.S. territories.  CDC Atlanta and the public health labs of Hawaii and Guam have been serving the testing needs for the Freely Associated States.

The Department of the Interior (DOI) provided a $858,924 Technical Assistance Program grant to the Pacific Islands Health Officers’ Association (PIHOA) to equip the U.S. territories and the Freely Associated States for on-island COVID-19 testing.  The grant will cover purchase of a GeneXpert machine, over 4,600 sample test cartridges, and additional testing supplies.

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