On Africa Day, Celebrating U.S.-Africa Partnership and Cooperation
The Mastercard Foundation’s Saving Lives and Livelihoods initiative is committing to a $1.3 billion partnership with the Africa Center for Disease Control (Africa CDC) to address the pressing needs of COVID-19 on the continent of Africa. As many countries in the West start to reach over 50 percent of their populations receiving at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot, Africa lags. In fact, the continent reached an all-time high of 43,000 daily new infections in late July and only 3.7% of the population have received at least one COVID vaccine dose. The large disparity in vaccination rates is alarming, as Africa remains extremely vulnerable to the devastating effects of the virus.
Now that the last American troops have left Afghanistan, the Biden Administration, Congress, and the American people begin to grapple with both the horror and devastation witnessed over the past three weeks in Afghanistan and the continuing security challenges posed by the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. Though the American operation over the last several weeks was successful in evacuating over 123,000 individuals, there remain over 100 Americans and thousands of vulnerable Afghans left in Afghanistan. As the country mourns the death of 170 individuals – including 13 U.S. service men and women – killed in the terror attack in Kabul last week, there remains an urgent need to protect the individuals left behind.
Over the past two weeks, the world has watched the unfolding chaos in Afghanistan with mounting horror; horror that turned into terror yesterday with the deadly attack on the Kabul airport. There will be plenty of time for Monday morning quarterbacking later, but for our citizens, partners and allies in Afghanistan, the clock is ticking. We must focus on the immediate steps to safely evacuate those who want to leave and protect those who stay from Taliban reprisal. To accomplish this mission will take the combined efforts of our public and private sectors.
The world has witnessed the significant and tragic loss of more than 3 million people due COVID-19 over the past year. What hasn’t made headlines is the more than 3 million children who have died from malnutrition during that same time, and the tens of millions more who will face lifelong consequences after suffering from malnutrition during critical periods of their growth. Now, experts predict that the COVID-19 pandemic could cause up to a 50% rise in severe malnutrition — 10,000 more child deaths each month as a result of pandemic-related disruptions in essential services.
The fight against human trafficking is one of many global challenges only made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic. A report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime found that “since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, trafficking in persons went even further underground” and “created larger pools of vulnerable persons.”
As the United States and other countries are increasingly vaccinated and reopening their economies, 20 countries across Africa are facing a third wave that could be the “worst yet.” The IMF reports that COVID-19 infections in sub-Saharan Africa are the fastest growing in the world—driven in part by the highly contagious delta variant—and hospitals are already at capacity in Zambia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Uganda, highlighting the urgent need for a global response to prevent new variants of the coronavirus from spreading.
As Congress negotiates a bipartisan domestic infrastructure package, the Administration set its sights on the global infrastructure challenge at the G-7 meetings in June. Infrastructure—from roads to schools—forms the connective building blocks of a sustainable economy, and infrastructure needs are especially high in low and lower-middle income countries. However, total infrastructure needs in the developing world will exceed $40 trillion by 2035, exacerbated by challenges from COVID-19 to climate change, and there remains a significant gap in financing to meet these needs.
My first three months with the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) have been a whirlwind. I am struck by the scope of the challenges ahead and how profoundly the global landscape has changed since the agency’s founding in 2004. In the immediate term, the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to erase hard-won development gains, with the first increase in global poverty levels in nearly 20 years. Other global challenges also loom large on the horizon – climate change, the rise of autocracies and dangerous geopolitical tensions – further threatening prospects for sustainable, inclusive economic growth and challenging democratic values. And there are pressing needs here at home, so it has never been more crucial to use our limited development dollars effectively and strategically.
It has been 40 years since the first cases of what later became known as AIDS were reported— and despite incredible scientific and programmatic strides, the end of the HIV/AIDS epidemic is not yet in sight. But lessons learned from HIV/AIDS are germane as the world responds to other infectious disease threats, including COVID-19. We asked Dr. Paul Stoffels of Johnson & Johnson about these lessons, the success of PEPFAR and the importance of global health security for preventing future pandemics.