The United States is helping Central Asian countries prepare for a potential spread of the novel coronavirus disease, or COVID-19, through donations of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves and masks for health workers.
The US Agency for International Development (USAID) has allocated financing from its Emergency Reserve Fund for Contagious Infectious Diseases to countries affected by the coronavirus or at risk of its spread.
The US Embassy in Tashkent Tuesday (March 17) handed over the equipment to Uzbekistan's Agency for Sanitary and Epidemiological Wellbeing (ASEW) as part of the United States' second PPE donation to the country.
US Ambassador to Uzbekistan Daniel Rosenblum praised the country's preparedness. This USAID assistance will further support Uzbekistan to prepare for and respond to COVID-19, he said.
The coronavirus "is a global public health threat that can be addressed only through close collaboration between governments and international organisations," Rosenblum said in a statement on the embassy website. "The US government is working closely with its Uzbek partners to support the country's preparedness and response to this global outbreak."
The PPE donated by USAID includes 10,000 examination gloves, 10,200 masks, 1,400 isolation gowns and 200 protective goggles. This equipment will be distributed to major cities nationwide.
"On behalf of the leadership of the Ministry of Health, represented by ASEW, we express our deep gratitude to the United States for supporting the Republic of Uzbekistan in preparedness and response against coronavirus infection," Chief Sanitary Doctor and ASEW Director Bahrom Almatov said in the statement.
"We greatly appreciate our close co-operation to improve the health and well-being of citizens," he said.
This PPE will protect and enable health workers in Uzbekistan to respond quickly and safely to treat COVID-19 patients in the country, the embassy said, adding that the donated PPE is vital to reduce the infection risk facing front-line health workers.
Meanwhile in Kazakhstan, the US Embassy in Nur-Sultan March 17 distributed 10,000 examination gloves, 10,000 masks, 1,400 isolation gowns, and 200 protective goggles to the City Centre for Ambulance Services.
US assistance in Tajikistan
The United States is providing similar aid to Tajikistan.
Acting Country Director of USAID in Tajikistan Katherine Owens and Dr. Galina Perfilieva, the head of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Country Office, handed over PPE to the Tajik Ministry of Health and Social Protection of the Population at a ceremony in Dushanbe on March 12.
The PPE donated to Tajikistan by the United States through USAID includes 12,000 surgical masks, 12,000 examination gloves, 1,400 surgical gowns and 400 safety goggles. This equipment will be distributed to health facilities and provinces across the country.
"This equipment and assistance funds represent an important continuation of our partnership with the Ministry of Health and Social Protection of the Population. We are preparing ourselves to combat this global health crisis together, and we support the government of Tajikistan's efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19," Owens said in a statement on the US embassy's website.
"These critical commodities will protect medical professionals and health workers who work with patients under quarantine, while the additional funds will support the government of Tajikistan's efforts to prevent and detect potential cases of COVID-19," she added.
"The Ministry of Health and Social Protection of the Population is making every possible effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Tajikistan and considers the generous support of the American people through USAID as timely and valuable," noted Deputy Minister Mirhamuddin Kamolzoda.
Although Tajikistan still has no confirmed cases of COVID-19, the PPE will protect and enable health workers throughout the country to respond quickly and safely to treat any potential coronavirus patients in Tajikistan, the statement said. The assistance package came at the request of Tajikistan's Ministry of Health.
In addition to the emergency assistance, the United States is partnering with the government of Tajikistan to ensure high-quality, evidence-based and cost-efficient medical care to improve public health in the country, the embassy said.
These include long-term efforts to control the spread of drug-resistant tuberculosis, reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS, improve the health status of women and children by providing mother-child health services, and improve nutrition, it added.
Equipment donated to Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyz health workers also are benefiting from a USAID donation.
On March 11 in Bishkek, USAID handed over PPE to the Ministry of Health as part of the United States' early assistance to prepare for any potential spread of COVID-19 within the Kyrgyz Republic.
The equipment includes 10,000 surgical masks, 10,000 gloves, 1,400 gowns and 200 protective goggles, according to a statement on the US embassy website.
"We will allocate these funds to critical areas such as disease control, infection prevention, and diagnosis capabilities of the Kyrgyz Republic," USAID Mission Director Gary Linden said in a statement on the embassy website.
The PPE will protect and enable healthcare workers and first responders throughout the country to respond quickly and safely to treat potential COVID-19 patients, the statement said.
"This personal protective equipment is very important for the people in our healthcare system because they work on the front line. Seven days a week, 24 hours a day, they are the first ones who meet the people entering our country," Deputy Prime Minister Altynay Omurbekova said at the handover ceremony.
This equipment comes at the request of the Kyrgyz government, which Wednesday (March 18) confirmed the country's first three cases of COVID-19.
The country's Sanitary and Epidemiological Service will manage the distribution of the equipment to targeted medical facilities.