I’m Earl Miller, U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh. Thank you for joining our virtual town hall meeting for members of the American Chamber of Commerce in Bangladesh.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, I have been hosting regular virtual town halls to speak directly to American citizens and friends in Bangladesh about assistance the Embassy can provide during this difficult time. Today, I’m honored to be speaking with our American business community in Bangladesh.
I hope you and your families are well. Our hearts go out to everyone, everywhere, most directly affected by this virus. We remember those we have lost, wish well those who are ill, and send our best wishes to their loved ones. The Embassy remains open. Most of our staff are teleworking but we are available for emergency consular services. We are here for you. Just as the United States has been here for Bangladesh and the world through trying times in the past.
To those observing Ramadan I wish you and your families all the blessings of the holy month. During this crisis, the values at the heart of Ramadan and Islam – compassion, gratitude, and generosity – resonate more than ever. Ramadan reminds us to think about and thank the front-line workers confronting this crisis. They perform remarkable acts of service every day – health care workers, police, people who work in the grocery stores and pharmacies, and responsible and caring business people like you who do so much so we all have what we need to care for ourselves and our loved ones.
You are genuine heroes. I love how health workers are publicly applauded in many countries. They should be everywhere. They deserve our immense gratitude. I would like to add to that list of heroes the dedicated public servants, American and Bangladeshi, of our Embassy team.
The leadership of the business community has never been more important. American businesses are at the forefront of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic around the world – from manufacturing essential medical supplies to providing support for first responders and healthcare professionals.
For almost half a century the United States has been the largest contributor of health and humanitarian assistance to the people of Bangladesh and people around the world. Over the last 20 years alone, America provided more than $140 billion in global health assistance.
Through the generosity of the American people, this assistance continues in the global battle against COVID-19. While America confronts this virus at home, the U.S. Government has provided more than $1 billion as of May 30 to more than 100 countries in every region of the world to fight the pandemic.
In March, the United States played a leading role in advancing a proposal with the IMF and World Bank to allow the suspension of debt payments from all eligible, least developed countries, including Bangladesh. The U.S. EXIM Bank recently approved four new measures to temporarily expand financing, inject liquidity into the market, and give maximum financing flexibility to facilitate sales of U.S. goods and services abroad. For those interested, you can find more information on those EXIM financing measures on the U.S. Embassy website.
American citizens through private businesses, nonprofit groups, charitable and faith-based organizations have donated more than $3 billion to people affected by COVID-19 around the world. Over the past 20 years, the United States has provided more than $1 billion in health assistance to Bangladesh. To fight COVID-19 in Bangladesh, the U.S. government, through USAID and CDC, has provided more than $36.7 million as of June 10.
We are improving the expertise and capacity of laboratories to help make accurate diagnoses; improving ways to prevent and control infections and better manage cases; providing testing kits; and helping ensure the reliable flow of supplies and equipment needed to fight the pandemic.
We are also working on programs to communicate with the public about risks and ways to lessen them, increase knowledge about the virus, and dispel myths and misconceptions. We have trained more than 1200 doctors and nurses to treat COVID patients. We have partnered with IEDCR to embed doctors in the national COVID-19 hotline service. This means more of your calls are answered, and you get the accurate, expert information about this disease you need.
This battle is joined. And we’re going to beat COVID-19. Because we’re Americans, Bangladeshis, brothers and sisters and fellow citizens of a vulnerable world that needs us to come together right now. And we will. And we will win out.
The American Chamber of Commerce in Bangladesh – its leadership and its members – must also play a critical role and shoulder responsibility as representatives of the U.S. business community to lead the response to this virus, which is disrupting lives, livelihoods, communities, and businesses worldwide. This role includes: filling gaps where there are shortages of food and necessities, meeting the need for critical medical equipment, and laying the groundwork for economic recovery.
Since we represent the United States of America, I know our response to this crisis will go beyond donations and fundraising – though both are deeply needed and important. The American business community will demonstrate its generosity, leadership, and ingenuity by finding new, innovative ways to tackle this pandemic. You will harness data to minimize the impact on public health, you will turn garment factories into PPE manufacturers, you will create air bridges to limit disruptions to economies and supply chains, and you will develop vaccines and therapies to save lives.
It will take the contributions and leadership of every one of you and your businesses. I hope you will accept this call to action. My team at the Embassy and I stand ready to help you in this noble life-saving effort.
The Embassy has heard from many U.S. businesses in Bangladesh of all sizes and sectors about how they are giving back and making a difference in their communities. We want to hear from the rest of you – what contributions have you made to combat the coronavirus and what impact are you having? We’d love to acquire information about the collective contributions of U.S. companies in Bangladesh during this challenging time. And let us know what support you need.
Help us help you.
We at the Embassy want to better understand: how is COVID impacting your business, your suppliers and buyers, your workforce, your access to capital, and your supply chains? If you have examples or stories to share, I hope you will get in touch with my team. We would be grateful to hear from you — please reach out to the email address on your screen: Anne Sherman, ShermanAN@state. gov.
Working together, American, Bangladeshis, all of us, we will get through this together.
To all of my fellow American citizens and Bangladeshi friends and partners, I know this is a challenging time. We have all been affected in some way. Take care of yourself and your neighbors. Think about how we can best display leadership and support our community in this time of need. Be strong, be safe, be kind. Thank you for representing the best of the United States here in Bangladesh. The U.S. Embassy stands ready to assist you and your family during these uncertain times.
We have a wonderfully supportive American community in Bangladesh that has been through a lot the past few years. We are being tested again. Let’s take care of each other again. When we get through this, we will look back, as we have before, and say when things seemed to be at their worst, we are at our best.