Embassy of the United States of America
Public Affairs Section
May 7, 2020
Greetings, all. Ramadan Mubarak.
To those observing Ramadan I wish you and your families all the blessings of the holy month. During these trying times, the values at the heart of Ramadan and Islam – compassion, gratitude, and generosity – are more important 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 other businesses, so we have what we need to care for ourselves and our families.
I would add journalists. You provide what any vibrant democracy needs, especially in times of crisis – objective information, facts and the truth.
The work of journalists, photojournalists, and media outlets often comes with sacrifice, including here in Bangladesh. We honor the journalists who have fallen ill from COVID-19 and their selfless dedication to public service.
On World Press Freedom Day, on May 3, the United States joined countries around the world reaffirming the universal right of free expression and the essential role press freedom plays in protecting democracy and keeping citizens informed and safe. This year, we paid special tribute to those journalists who work tirelessly, often under stressful and dangerous conditions, to inform the public about the COVID-19 pandemic.
We honor all journalists, everywhere, who have sacrificed their lives, freedom and personal well-being in pursuit of truth and justice.
Press freedom plays an essential role in providing the facts and accurate information needed to keep citizens informed and safe amid the COVID-19 crisis. Journalists should be free to pursue the truth without fear of censorship, harassment, or arrest as they perform this life-saving service.
You are all genuine heroes. I love how health workers are publicly applauded in many countries. They should be, and so should journalists, everywhere. You deserve our immense gratitude.
Thomas Jefferson wrote, “Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.”
Thank you all for joining us today for this virtual event.
Dr. Kanak Kanti Barua, Vice Chancellor, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University.
Esteemed representatives from DGHS and the medical, and healthcare communities, Embassy colleagues, friends from the media –
These are challenging times for us all. But, Bangladesh and the United States, and nations around the world, are working together to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
America’s commitment to Bangladesh has never been stronger. And, our commitment to each other has never been more important.
Today, the U. S. government, through USAID, is joining hands with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to launch an online course on COVID-19 for doctors across Bangladesh. The program will be delivered through the government’s e-learning platform Muktopaath. A huge thanks to our partner Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs, Directorate General of Health Services, and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University who were involved in designing and implementing the course.
This course will enhance doctor’s knowledge of safety precautions in the treatment of COVID-19 patients. The virtual platform also makes it easier for doctors from around the country to freely access this course at their convenience.
This course is just one example of how the U.S. government is supporting the people of Bangladesh during this pandemic. USAID and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are actively engaged with Government of Bangladesh health officials working with hospitals and health facilities around the country to strengthen Bangladesh’s ability to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak.
As of today, the total U.S. government contribution for COVID-19 response support to Bangladesh amounts to over $22 million.
The United States was one of the first countries in the world to provide funds for the Bangladeshi’s COVID-19 readiness and response efforts. This support, combined with ongoing training and guidance from CDC and USAID public health experts and their partners, will continue to strengthen disease preparedness, detection, and response systems. For example, through our partner icddr,b we are supporting IEDCR to track the pathways through which the disease is spreading, identify hotspots, and help make decisions on where best to put resources.
This funding builds upon more than $1 billion in health assistance provided by the American people to the people of Bangladesh over the past 20 years. Over the past two decades, U.S. government health programs, through USAID, worked to ensure high quality maternal health and nutrition services are available. These programs have helped reduce the numbers of maternal and child deaths in Bangladesh.
Just last year, USAID’s close collaboration with the National TB Control Program of the Government of Bangladesh contributed to an increase of TB detection by 42% — and that means more sick people can be treated, while reducing the risk the disease will spread.
In 2019, USAID also helped engage more than 2,300 women entrepreneurs to promote health messages and sell essential health products. This program ensured better access to quality health products, helped improve the health status in their communities, and generated income for their families.
Through its flagship Field Epidemiology Training Program (FETP), the CDC has helped train local experts in field epidemiology and outbreak response. The program’s 24 graduates and 14 current fellows are now playing vital roles in the country’s efforts to tackle COVID-19. They’ve been directly involved in investigating the majority of the initial 2,000 cases in Bangladesh.
Our support in response to COVID-19 reaffirms the United States long-term commitment to Bangladesh.
We will get through this crisis together.
By heeding the lessons of history and science, by supporting each other with empathy and mutual respect, by being realistic and positive, we will prevail together.