Ambassador Miller’s Remarks at Virtual Launch of USAID Urban Poor At-Risk Food Assistance Program

World Food Programme (WFP) Bangladesh Office
July 8, 2020


Thank you, Richard.

Honorable  Minister  Khasru (KAS-roo),  it is indeed a pleasure to join you today.

Assalamualaikum.   Good afternoon.

Around the world, heroic people are working tirelessly to prevent the spread of COVID-19, to help treat those who are infected, and to support us all in meeting these daunting challenges.

Here in Bangladesh, our commitment to each other has never been more important.  America’s commitment to Bangladesh has never been stronger.

Three weeks ago, I announced several programs the U.S. government launched to complement the Government of Bangladesh’s efforts to fight COVID-19.  These programs include training for healthcare workers, sharing information about the disease, and working creatively to help Bangladesh produce quality personal protective equipment.

But that’s only part of the story.

We must also work together to help those who face poverty and hunger because of COVID-19.

We must help those who are facing food shortages because they lack income from their usual work, whether as a rickshaw puller, running a tea stall, or working at a factory that is now closed.

No family should face hunger because they are staying in their homes to help stop the spread of COVID-19.  This pilot program will help get nutritious food to households in two low-income urban areas of Dhaka, so they can stay healthy and nourished during these difficult days.

To directly and swiftly help these people, the U.S. Government, through the United States Agency for International Development, or USAID, is providing the World Food Program with a seven-million-dollar grant,  that’s more than 59 crore taka, to launch a new program to help urban poor families.  These families are at the greatest risk of COVID-19 because they live in densely populated areas where the disease can spread quickly.

This pilot program will do two things for these areas in Dhaka:

One – it will provide a food package (gesture towards food on display) – like this – to families who must stay home isolating themselves for two weeks while a family member is sick with COVID -19.

We know one of the best methods of preventing the spread of COVID-19 is for those who have symptoms of the disease to stay home and recover.

During those two weeks at home – when a family still needs food – the World Food Program will deliver food to their door with the funding from USAID.

And two – this new program will supply other residents of these areas with a cash-based transfer that will help them obtain food and help others in the area buy fresh food at reasonable prices.

The initial support from USAID is the start of what we believe will be a life-changing effort to help urban poor families who are suffering.

The World Food Program has tremendous expertise in delivering food assistance. WFP has worked successfully for years in Bangladesh and will be joined in this new project by BRAC, also well known for its superb work in urban areas, and for its work with farmers and food in development programs.

This is a hugely important program.  I view its success as critical.  That is why I’m here today.  It is important to develop the best methods to feed the hungry, and to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.

In addition to supporting this food program, the U.S. Government is also providing support for monitoring communities, improving infection prevention and control (IPC) activities, and increasing knowledge and dispelling myths and misconceptions about the disease.  This will help keep people safer, healthier, and provide health professionals with the information they need to better treat suffering patients and control this virus.

We recently completed training 1,000 new doctors who have become master trainers and are now training other health professionals, including nurses, at health facilities on IPC and COVID-19 case management.

In addition to supporting the country’s health sector, the U.S. Government, through USAID, is also helping small vendors mitigate the challenges posed by COVID-19.

USAID’s livestock activity has linked local dairy processors in the country’s south western area with FoodPanda, a popular mobile food delivery service operating in major urban areas across Bangladesh.  In just one-and-a-half months more than 40 dairy processors from the southwest region reported over 3,000 FoodPanda orders placed by local consumers adding an additional $6,000 to their sales.  This has strengthened the link between customers and local farmers and dairy processors – resulting in increased incomes.

The U.S. Government is also providing technical assistance and other support through the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention team based in Dhaka. We are providing support to custom officials and other key personnel critical to ensure the country’s food supply, and to frontline police and emergency service providers risking their lives to protect ours.  And we are working together with the private sector and the Government of Bangladesh to ensure quality standards for local production of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other medical supplies, for local use as well as for export worldwide, helping to keep people employed and benefitting the Bangladeshi economy.

For more than half a century, the United States has been the largest contributor to global health security and humanitarian assistance and is proud to have provided more than $1 billion in public health assistance to Bangladesh over the last 20 years.

As of today, the United States has provided $1.3 billion in global health, humanitarian, development and economic assistance to the world-wide COVID-19 response in more than 120 countries.  As a committed partner, the United States, through the Department of State and USAID alone, has provided over $43.4M to date to Bangladesh to directly confront the COVID-19 pandemic.  Additional support and technical assistance are being provided through the Departments of Defense and Agriculture and our Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

We’re going to beat COVID-19, but we must do it together. As Americans and Bangladeshis, brothers and sisters, and fellow citizens, we’ve come together before in the past to tackle tough challenges.  And, we must do it again now, to help our loved ones and those most vulnerable and the world we share.

Dhonnobad.   Thank you.