Acting Administrator John Barsa’s Remarks at UNGA Event: A Dialogue with the World’s Top 10 Donors on Global Humanitarian Needs

Speeches Shim

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Thank you Deputy Secretary Biegun, for highlighting the United States’ commitment to humanitarian action.

It’s no secret that we are facing some of the most challenging times in modern history. The COVID-19 pandemic is compounding unprecedented levels of global humanitarian need.

Thanks to the tenacious leadership of President Trump, the U.S. is leading the global response to the pandemic. The U.S. Government has committed more than $20.5 billion to fight COVID-19, including more than $1.6 billion in State Department and USAID assistance.

I want to thank the other donor governments joining us today for their humanitarian leadership. I echo Deputy Secretary Biegun’s comments about how important it is to convene this group.

We all have the collective responsibility to address increasing humanitarian needs, and ensure that human life and dignity are protected. And the U.S. will continue to lead by example, as the world’s largest donor for global health and humanitarian assistance.

COVID-19 is impacting the delivery of humanitarian assistance and forcing us to respond in innovative ways to natural disasters, increasing food insecurity, ongoing conflicts, and health emergencies.

We welcome the ideas and solutions of others. But what we need is transparent assistance that saves lives, not photo ops and faulty PPE that puts people even more at risk.

The U.S. will continue to engage the international humanitarian system to ensure a coordinated, principled, and effective response to the world’s most pressing crises. We will not manipulate multilateral organizations to push our own domestic agenda.

We couldn’t do the work we do without our partners. I want to express my sincere gratitude to WFP, UNICEF, UNHCR, OCHA, and other humanitarian partners represented here today. Their staff are on the front lines, often putting their own lives at risk to meet the needs of others.

They’re doing this in places like Syria, where we are seeing heightened humanitarian needs due to the ongoing civil war, economic crisis, and a growing COVID-19 outbreak.

Deputy Secretary Biegun just announced more than $720 million in additional humanitarian aid for Syria. This demonstrates the United States’ commitment to the Syrian people. But we are up against others whose only commitment is to the Assad regime, and who are blocking much-needed assistance from entering the country.

Our partners are also working to save lives in South Sudan, which is experiencing ongoing conflict, COVID-19, heavy rains, swarms of desert locusts, and persistent food insecurity.

Today, the United States is pleased to announce $108 million in additional humanitarian assistance for the people of South Sudan, including South Sudanese refugees in surrounding countries.

This funding will go towards making sure families can feed their children, get the medical care they need, access clean water, and protect themselves from flash floods.

We know that disasters don’t take a break during a pandemic. And neither does the United States.

When the deadly explosions shook the city of Beirut last month, USAID quickly deployed a Disaster Assistance Response Team — or DART — to lead the U.S. Government’s response.

I flew to Beirut for a short but moving trip, to assess the damage, help the Lebanese people remove rubble from the streets, and make clear to the people of Lebanon that the United States stands shoulder to shoulder with them.

USAID is working with WFP and other partners to provide emergency food, shelter, and medical assistance to the people of Lebanon.

And, in the midst of the pandemic, the United States is working with international and local partners to end the latest Ebola outbreak in the DRC, just as we ended the previous outbreak in June.

The Government of the DRC has been transparent with international authorities about where and how the outbreak started, allowing effective contact tracing to prevent unnecessary deaths. This is in sharp contrast to the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

USAID deployed a DART, which continues to work with the DRC government and humanitarian partners to end the outbreak.

Why do we do all of this? Not only because it is in our national interest to keep the world safe, but also because Americans are the most generous and compassionate people in the history of the planet.

But there is still a lot to learn about the unfolding effect of COVID-19 on the humanitarian landscape.

For one, women and girls — who are already vulnerable in humanitarian crises — face a higher risk of physical and sexual violence, even in their own homes.

To reduce their risk of being abused or exploited, we are funding safe spaces for women and girls. And we are equipping social workers with the tools to safely and compassionately support survivors of gender-based violence.

The COVID-19 pandemic is also exacerbating already-alarming levels of global food insecurity. The pandemic is threatening 183 million people who are on the verge of slipping into acute hunger.

The current emergency needs around the globe are just the tip of the iceberg. We know that the repercussions of COVID-19 will be felt for years to come, long after the pandemic subsides.

USAID is undertaking a strategic review, called Over the Horizon, to ensure the Agency is well-positioned to work with other agencies across the U.S. Government and the international community to meet the long-term challenges and opportunities in a world altered by COVID-19.

But this long-term review doesn’t mean we don’t have today’s challenges in focus. The United States Government continues to lead the international response to humanitarian crises, reaching millions of people around the world with life-saving aid when needed.

Thank you for this opportunity to address all of you and to participate in this important session.

Last updated: December 14, 2020

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