Partnering to End COVID-19

Lessons from USAID and Asia’s local heroes

The U.S. Government has donated over 33 million COVID-19 vaccines to the Philippines. With USAID’s support, these vaccines have reached the elderly and people with pre-existing conditions. / USAID/Philippines

COVID-19 has claimed the lives of over 1 million people in Asia. To make things worse, nearly five million families in Southeast Asia alone fell back into poverty and over nine million people faced unemployment due to the pandemic.

Amid these challenges, USAID’s local partners are more important than ever to saving lives and helping communities get back on their feet.

Since the pandemic began, our partners in Asia have been at the forefront to provide immediate assistance to stop the virus’ spread, distribute life-saving vaccines, and support small businesses to reopen. Today, USAID partners have supported the distribution of nearly 550 million U.S. Government-donated COVID-19 vaccines and helped communities regain economic losses.

This is how USAID and our partners foster COVID-19 response and recovery throughout Asia.

Internews Kyrgyz Republic created television programs to share accurate information about COVID-19, which were broadcast on 20 stations. / Internews

Innovative Outreach Campaigns

In Kyrgyzstan, Elina Karakulova, director of USAID partner Internews’s national office, said that at the start of the pandemic, the explosion of disinformation, rumors, and fake news led to information distrust, making it difficult to introduce COVID-19 prevention methods.

“Internews has been fighting fake news since the beginning of the pandemic,” Elina said. “We united five newsrooms to do fact checking…and briefed media partners on how to talk to groups [about virus prevention],” with a focus on children, youth, and older adults.

Internews created a television series about the pandemic and used social media — including partnerships with influencers — to reach audiences in Uzbek, Russian, and Kyrgyz languages. According to Internews, users engaged with this reliable content more than 1.5 million times — the equivalent of engaging every third internet user in the country. Videos were broadcast on more than 20 popular and trusted TV channels, delivering credible COVID-19 information to 97% of Kyrgyz TV viewers.

Expanding Health Care and Vaccine Access

In the Philippines, USAID Foreign Service Nationals’ skills and talents are needed more than ever as the pandemic taxes local health systems. Dr. Yolanda Oliveros, Deputy Health Director for USAID/Philippines, whose career spans 30 years as a medical doctor and public health expert, said the pandemic reaffirmed her belief in the power of local health and development efforts.

“I am proud to be part of the unprecedented mobilization of resources to rapidly address the pandemic,” she said.

When hospitals and clinics needed oxygen supplies and health workers ready to fight the virus, USAID provided oxygen equipment and helped train 43,000 health care workers and thousands of volunteers. The U.S. Government has also donated over 33 million COVID-19 vaccines to the Philippines, which have reached the elderly and immunocompromised in both rural areas and dense urban centers through USAID-supported mobile clinics.

“I believe that investments in public health strongly contribute to a country’s development. And likewise, a country’s development will boost public health interventions through locally led investments…. That’s why I’m here at USAID,” the Dr. Oliveros added.

Farmer Kalpana received a loan from Samhita Social Ventures to purchase fertilizer, seeds, and goats when COVID-19 shuttered her small business in India. / Samhita Social Ventures

Supporting Business Opportunities for Micro-Entrepreneurs

The pandemic depleted micro-entrepreneurs’ economic gains, forcing them back into poverty. In India, USAID partner, Samhita-Collective Good Foundation (CGF), CEO and Co-Founder, Priya Naik, said these workers are “people who over decades have lifted themselves out of poverty…they were farmers and artisans and people who ran mom and pop stores…who knew that if they didn’t resume their businesses, they were not going to have any ability to feed their families or send their kids to school.”

With support from USAID, Samhita-CGFand local and international private sector partners formed the REVIVE Alliance — an inclusive support network that helps women and youth recover from pandemic setbacks. The alliance has helped thousands of micro-entrepreneurs access grants and low cost loans to fortify their recovery. The program has also allowed 175,000 entrepreneurs, including local artisans, to digitize their businesses and reach new markets. In addition, the alliance shares information about government programs that provide financial support and customized solutions for entrepreneurs based on their sector.

“There was no way without USAID’s support that we could be collaborative and innovative or think and execute at scale,” Priya said.

The alliance aims to boost business for 10 million additional entrepreneurs in the next few years.

Partnering to End the Pandemic

“USAID’s 4,000 local partners and foreign service nationals sprang into action at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic,” says USAID’s Deputy Assistant Administrator for Asia, Änjali Kaur. “Today, these partners in over 100 countries — ranging from local NGOs and faith-based organizations to diaspora groups, foundations, and hospitals — continue to play a critical role to end the pandemic and save lives now.

“This allows our local partners to combat the virus at the community level,” she explains.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, USAID has supported more than 30 countries in Asia to contain and combat the virus and has aided in the donation of nearly 275 million COVID-19 vaccines in 25 Asian nations.

USAID’s support intensifies the fight against COVID-19 around the world, paves the way to global recovery, and strengthens global health security.

About the Author

Tiffany Tupper is the Bureau for Asia COVID-19 Communications Officer and Samantha Martin is the Bureau for Asia Speechwriter.

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