By Justin Siberell
US Ambassador to Kingdom of Bahrain
Americans and Bahrainis have been working together to combat epidemics for more than 100 years. One of the first activities of the doctors and nurses of what would become the American Mission Hospital at its founding in the early 1900’s was offering medical care to confront outbreaks of cholera, smallpox and dysentery. The cooperation and trust developed then between Bahrainis and Americans has only strengthened in the intervening years, and will help see us through the current challenges of COVID-19 together.
Today, as the United States faces an unprecedented threat to our national health at home, we are no less committed to building a global health capacity to fight COVID-19 and other outbreaks. We are coordinating closely with the Bahraini Government, especially the COVID-19 Task Force under the leadership of HRH Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa and the Ministry of Health, as well as the private sector and ordinary citizens. Americans in Bahrain are extremely appreciative of the decisive and proactive response with which Bahrain’s leadership has met the current challenge. Whether in the high ratio of COVID-19 testing, the establishment of critical care facilities, and early action on social distancing, Bahrain has rightly been lauded by the World Health Organization and others for its response. No less impressive has been the willingness of Bahraini citizens to come together to assist, especially the thirty thousand Bahrainis who volunteered for the national anti-COVID 19 campaign by the National Taskforce to Combat the Coronavirus (COVID 19).
American companies and organizations in Bahrain are also doing their part. Westpoint Home, a textile manufacturer based in the United States with a factory in Bahrain’s industrial area, has converted a large section of its factory floor to produce face masks in response to a global shortage of these critical items. Thousands of the masks are being donated to the Ministry of Health. Big Texas Barbecue, an American – owned restaurant in Bahrain, has donated food to support laborers and others without access to kitchens.
Meanwhile, the United States continues to demonstrate leadership in the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since 2009, USAID, the U.S. Government’s foreign assistance arm, has invested more than one billion dollars to help prevent, detect and respond to endemic and emerging health threats like COVID-19, including HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and other diseases. This funding has strengthened the public health response capabilities in some of the poorest regions of the world.
Once the United States learned about the virus outbreak in China in early January, we immediately offered assistance. Since then, the American People have provided 17.8 tons of donated relief supplies to Hubei province in China. This U.S. government funding is in addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars that U.S. private and charitable organizations have committed to stop the spread of COVID-19. And despite the extraordinary challenges to our own economy, the United States is prepared to spend up to $100 million in additional State Department and USAID funds to assist at-risk countries in combatting and containing the virus.
Coordination and strong binational cooperation such as we enjoy with Bahrain are central to fighting this virus. The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institute of Health and other American public and private sector organizations are working with the World Health Organization, among others, to provide up-to-date guidance to countries around the world, including Bahrain, on the latest diagnostic options to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our scientists are working with global counterparts to push vaccines through the early stages of development at record speed. To expedite this process, the United States is inviting researchers worldwide to use our supercomputers, the world’s most powerful, under the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium. This will help them understand the virus faster and expedite better diagnosis and therapy.
Americans and Bahrainis have worked together for over 120 years to overcome a wide array of challenges, including deadly diseases like cholera and smallpox.Together, we will prevail again.