US announces more Covid aid

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From top left to right: Hanh Nguyen from USAID, US ambassador Patrick Murphy and Rachel Albalak of the US’ CDC. US EMBASSY IN PHNOM PENH

US ambassador to Cambodia Patrick Murphy said the Kingdom’s Ministry of Health has proven itself to be remarkably well-prepared for its mission to prevent the spread of Covid-19 since the earliest days of the pandemic, making it one of the leading countries in the region in terms of public health response to the crisis.

Murphy paid the compliments on September 14 during a press conference held to announce additional US assistance to Cambodia in its battle against the pandemic.

The virtual conference was also attended by representatives of the Cambodian health ministry, UNICEF and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia.

Murphy noted that the US has so far provided more than $15 million in direct assistance to Cambodia in response to Covid-19, principally through the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and in the form of educational materials on risk prevention, community outreach efforts, infection prevention and control resources and laboratory systems.

He said the aid included the recent $4 million donated through the US Relief Plan, which will be administered by WHO and UNICEF.

“Our assistance in the past two years has addressed some of the socio-economic impacts of Covid-19. Both the US and Cambodia have experienced an economic crisis from this disease, and our past assistance has been aimed at helping the most vulnerable,” he continued.

He stated that the long-term solution to the problems presented by the pandemic continues to be vaccinations and Cambodia has excelled in its vaccination efforts.

The US donated more than one million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccines to Cambodia through the Covax Facility in July.

“We are very pleased that the authorities chose to use these [Johnson & Johnson] vaccines for indigenous peoples and frontline staff in the provinces. They have really benefited from the efficiency of only needing one dose of these vaccines.

“When we talk about public health, it’s also important that we talk about good relations between the American people and the Cambodian people,” he said.

Health ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said cooperation between the US and Cambodia was not a new development but simply part of the diplomatic relations that had been ongoing since 1992.

“The US government has always provided substantial grants to the health sector in Cambodia, but those grants have not generally been provided directly to the government, but through NGOs,” she said.

She added that US assistance through NGOs and USAID partners to develop health-related activities was estimated at $135 million.

“Similarly, when Covid-19 came to Cambodia, the US and the Cambodian government began working together to prevent its spread – often through those same aid agency partnerships, including the more than one million vaccine doses the US donated to Cambodia through the Covax Facility,” she explained.

US embassy spokesman Chad Roedemeier said the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will provide $140,000 to Cambodia’s National Centre for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology and STDs to improve infection control practices at 70 HIV healthcare facilities nationally.

This assistance will help reduce the risk of contracting Covid-19 among people who are living with HIV in Cambodia who may be more vulnerable to the virus due to being immune-compromised.

USAID will also provide a shipment of personal protective equipment (PPE) with a value of $100,000 that will protect over 1,900 frontline healthcare workers who are serving at HIV healthcare facilities as well as community outreach workers who are assisting HIV-positive Cambodians.