ALMATY -- As infectious diseases spread "faster than ever" worldwide, the United States considers aid provided to Central Asian nations to fight the coronavirus an "investment in the whole world", according to a regional director for the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
CDC Central Asia Director Daniel Singer made the remarks Wednesday (May 6) while speaking by phone to journalists from Central Asian states, the US Embassy in Uzbekistan said in a statement.
While answering questions from reporters in countries including Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, Singer described the United State's role in combating COVID-19 and the US government's plans to support the people of Central Asia in the fight.
The CDC so far has pledged a pandemic aid package of $6.8 million for Central Asian countries.
"The $6.8 million that we are now providing over the next two years will be used to purchase equipment, provide training, facilitate collaboration on understanding the disease and support the ministries of health in the region in taking all necessary actions to protect their countries' citizens until we have conquered this pandemic," he said while speaking in Almaty.
In addition, the US aid includes the purchase of millions of dollars of equipment and supplies for national laboratories to expand their ability to test for COVID-19, he said.
"We have been closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation in Central Asia since January and have offered technical assistance to all the governments in the region to support their outbreak response," Singer said.
The CDC has 25 years of experience working in Central Asia. It has offices in more than 50 countries, including Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, he noted, adding the CDC also offers assistance when requested by the Ministry of Health in Turkmenistan.
"We are prepared to provide equipment and advanced training to monitor the health of people arriving at borders and ports of entry," Singer said.
CDC epidemiologists, laboratory specialists and public health specialists are working with ministries of health to advance public health science and develop programmes that prevent, detect and respond to disease, said Singer.
"The reason the US sees this as a worthwhile investment is now painfully obvious, because diseases -- especially infectious diseases -- spread globally faster than ever," he said. "Our support to Central Asia is not just an investment in the health of those nations; it is an investment in the health of America and the whole world."
"CDC investments to improve health security have laid foundations to rapidly and effectively prepare for emerging threats, including the current coronavirus outbreak, and we feel our collaboration with the ministries of health is more important now than ever," he added.
Addressing urgent needs in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan
As Singer spelled out the details of the aid packages, the US Embassy in Uzbekistan May 6 announced on its website that Uzbekistan will receive $2.07 million of the CDC aid to manage the COVID-19 pandemic.
The funds will be aimed at addressing the most urgent needs identified by the Ministry of Health.
They include the procurement of laboratory supplies and equipment for COVID-19 testing, which is aimed at increasing capacity for the diagnosis of coronavirus infections and a rapid turn-around of test results.
The funds will be used too for equipment and training to establish an Uzbekistan Public Health Emergency Operations Centre (EOC), similar to the CDC EOC in Atlanta.
More assistance is being provided to Tajikistan to support efforts against COVID-19, the US Embassy in Tajikistan announced on its website May 6.
The country will receive $1.69 million in CDC aid in addition to the $1 million in assistance already provided by the US Agency for International Development (USAID).
"This assistance will help the people of Tajikistan and their heroic medical staff overcome this health crisis, which has affected every corner of the world," US Ambassador to Tajikistan John Mark Pommersheim said in the statement.
"The US Embassy has provided nearly $125 million in health assistance to Tajikistan over the past 20 years in order to strengthen Tajikistan's ability to respond to crises such as this," he added.