COLOMBO, June 8: In a media release by the Public Affairs Section of the US Embassy in Sri Lanka stated that, the United States continues to stand with the people of Sri Lanka in the battle against the COVID-19 surge. Today, U.S. Embassy Charge d’Affaires Martin Kelly and Secretary to the Ministry of Health Dr. S.H. Munasinghe commemorated the donation of critically needed emergency supplies, including pulse oximeters, protective goggles, examination gloves, and KN95 masks – all of it donated by the American people at the request of the government of Sri Lanka. The donation arrived at Bandaranaike International Airport on Saturday.
“The United States and Sri Lanka have worked closely together to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic since its outset,” said U.S. Embassy Charge d’Affaires Martin Kelly. “We recognize the serious personal toll of the pandemic. At the Government’s request, we’re providing these urgently needed supplies to the Ministry of Health to ensure they reach those in need as fast as possible.”
The shipment of these emergency relief supplies follows the White House announcement last Thursday that the United States will make available nearly 7 million vaccine doses for countries in South and Southeast Asia, including Sri Lanka. Since March 2020, the United States has provided $6 million, plus an in-kind donation of 200 ventilators, to control the spread of COVID-19, address the urgent health needs of the Sri Lankan people, and ultimately save lives. This assistance has reached millions of people in all 25 districts and nine provinces of Sri Lanka to mobilize critical supplies and expertise to support the Sri Lankan Government’s response to the pandemic. This funding is also helping to mitigate the pandemic’s negative economic impacts and help the country recover.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has invested over $26 million in the past 20 years to improve the health and well-being of Sri Lankan families and to combat diseases like malaria, avian influenza, and now, COVID-19. This is one component of the longstanding partnership between the American and Sri Lankan people to support self-reliance and promote economic growth. USAID’s program in Sri Lanka, totaling more than 350 billion LKR ($2 billion) since 1961, promotes a healthy, educated, and employed population. To find out more about USAID’s work, please see usaid.gov/sri-lanka.
Emergency COVID-19 Assistance for Sri Lanka
The United States has stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the people of Sri Lanka for more than 70 years. In recognition of its strong and long-standing partnership with Sri Lanka, the United States is delivering emergency supplies to provide urgent relief as Sri Lanka faces an increase in COVID-19 cases. This includes vital personal protective equipment and other critical supplies to support frontline health care workers and people most affected by the current outbreak. The shipment of these emergency relief supplies follows the White House announcement last Thursday that the United States will make available nearly 7 million vaccine doses for countries in South and Southeast Asia, including Sri Lanka.
Immediate U.S. Emergency COVID-19 Assistance
At the request of the Government of Sri Lanka, the United States is providing these urgently needed supplies to the Ministry of Health to ensure they reach those in need as fast as possible. They include:
- Personal Protective Equipment: 240,000 KN95 masks to protect both patients and Sri Lankan health care personnel; as well as 40,000 protective goggles; and 600,000 pairs of large, medium, and small examination gloves.
- Diagnostic Tools: 1,200 fingertip pulse oximeters plus batteries to measure oxygen levels in a patient’s blood to determine whether a higher level of care is needed.
U.S. Support for Sri Lanka from the Outset of the Pandemic
The United States and Sri Lanka have worked closely together to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic since its outset. To date, the American people have provided $6 million to Sri Lanka’s COVID-19 response and recovery, in addition to an in-kind donation of 200 portable ventilators. The U.S. Department of Defense has also provided crucial equipment and support. This assistance has reached millions of people in all 25 districts and 9 provinces of Sri Lanka, providing life-saving treatments, strengthening clinical care, and mobilizing critical supplies to bolster response and help the country recover.
Through this partnership, we have:
- Provided 200 ventilators to 121 healthcare facilities designated to treat COVID-19 patients in all 25 districts and 9 provinces of Sri Lanka to save lives and enhance the quality of immediate care of Sri Lankans suffering from the most severe symptoms of COVID-19. Provided technical assistance and training to more than 1,400 clinicians to expand the pool of healthcare professionals qualified to use this ventilator model and manage COVID cases.
- Helped keep frontline workers safe by providing personal protective equipment, thermal scanners, handwashing stations, hygiene kits, disinfection sprayers, N95 masks, and other critical supplies to hundreds of hospitals, government offices, schools, and communities. Provided equipment and training to local businesses to manufacture personal protective equipment.
- Helped schools reopen safely by printing and distributing guidelines for reopening and providing handwashing stations, hand sanitizer, and personal protective equipment to schools. Established health rooms, including beds, mattresses, first aid kits, portable screens, and water dispensers, at 120 schools around the country to ensure basic precautionary measures against COVID-19 and enable isolation and related care for students if needed. Disinfected government school compounds and preschools in 14 of 25 districts and provided power sprayers and thermal scanners for 150 schools.
- Launched messaging campaigns that promoted social distancing, raised awareness of the importance of following good hygiene practices, and provided critical information about the virus, its symptoms, transmission, and preventative messages, reaching over 7 million people.
- Developed the “Stay Home and Learn” campaign that reached over a million youth through films, social media, and an online learning portal to provide opportunities for youth to proactively build their life and career skills while at home due to COVID-related school closures.
- Established six maternity isolation units for COVID-19 positive pregnant women. Distributed more than 6,600 personal hygiene kits, including sanitary pads, to women in quarantine centers and other restricted locations without access to health provisions.
- Expanded 24-hour hotline capacity to provide psychosocial counselling to callers, including people impacted by an increase in domestic violence due to COVID-19, and link them with emergency services such as food and safe shelters.
- Provided a PCR test machine to the University of Jaffna to increase its testing capacity from 60 to 180 tests per day. Provided a mobile testing lab to the Regional Health Service Directorate in Monaragala to test up to 100 people daily. Through the International Atomic Energy Agency, handed over a U.S.-funded COVID-19 test kit, including a RT-PCR machine, supplies to conduct 2,000 tests, and personal protective equipment, to the University of Colombo.
- Pledged $4 billion to the global COVAX facility, making the United States the world’s largest single donor supporting this platform to provide equitable global access to high-quality, WHO-authorized COVID-19 vaccines. COVAX has committed to providing 8.4 million vaccine doses to Sri Lanka free of charge to cover 20 percent of Sri Lanka’s population. Sri Lanka received its first delivery of 264,000 doses of the vaccines from COVAX in March.
- Supported data collection and analysis on the impact of COVID-19 on households, health, education, and nutrition to inform response activities and sector strategies to mitigate the impact of the crisis on children and their families. Conducted surveys on trade and labor market impacts of COVID-19 on exporters. Provided capacity building training as part of the State Department’s private sector engagement with the apparel industry and Sri Lanka’s Export Development Board to aid new exporters in accessing the U.S. market.
- Strengthened Sri Lanka’s readiness to respond to public health emergencies by providing essential equipment, including 71,000 masks, 24,000 nitrile gloves, 600 isolation gowns with hoods, 60 infrared thermometers, 50 portable oxygen concentrators plus expendable equipment to support their operation such as disinfectants
U.S.-Sri Lanka Partnership: Seven Decades Strong
For seventy years, the U.S. government has worked in partnership with the government and people of Sri Lanka to improve lives and livelihoods. Since 1961, the U.S. government has invested over $2 billion in Sri Lanka through USAID to improve agriculture, the environment, health, education, business development, trade, and good governance — and provide humanitarian assistance in times of disasters like the 2004 tsunami, landslides, and floods. U.S. COVID-19 support builds on these investments, through which we have built connections, expertise, and systems that have enabled us to provide immediate support.
In health care alone, USAID has invested more than $26 million over the past twenty years to improve the health and well-being of Sri Lankan families. USAID helped to eradicate malaria in Sri Lanka and combat avian influenza, provided psychosocial counseling to victims of trauma, and facilitated physical rehabilitation services to people with disabilities.