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The United States All-of-Government Response to COVID-19 in Pacific Island Countries
September 18, 2020

As the leader in global health and humanitarian response to COVID-19, the United States has acted swiftly to monitor, respond to, and mitigate the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in Pacific Island countries.

The Department of State is closely coordinating with U.S. interagency partners including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Department of the Interior (DOI), Department of Defense (DOD), and U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM).

While the U.S. response for the U.S. Freely Associated States—Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of the Marshall Islands, and Palau—is based on our unique, historic, and special relationships underpinned by our Compacts of Free Association, we will continue to support all the Pacific Island countries.

We are coordinating closely with Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Taiwan, the ROK, the Pacific Community (SPC), the Pacific Joint Incident Management Team based in Fiji, and other like-minded partners on COVID-19 assistance to the Pacific.   We are also supporting the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Pacific Humanitarian Pathway on COVID-19 through a $5 million USAID contribution to the World Food Program’s humanitarian air services to transport personnel and medical and humanitarian supplies to support Pacific governments’ COVID-19 response.

Funding to Support the Pacific in Responding to COVID-19

To date, the U.S. government has provided more than $130 million in funding to support the COVID-19 response in Pacific Island countries, including:

  • $24.1 million from USAID to the Pacific Islands region,
  • $3.5 million from USAID for Papua New Guinea, and
  • More than $103 million from a variety of federal agencies to the Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of the Marshall Islands, and Palau.  Funding comes from DOI, CDC, HHS, Department of Labor (DOL), and Department of Education (ED).

U.S. Response in the Pacific Islands Region and Papua New Guinea

USAID assistance of $24.1 million for the Pacific Islands to date has supported the following activities and implementing partners: 

  • $14.5 million in humanitarian assistancefrom the International Disaster Assistance (IDA) account to support risk-communications, the prevention and control of infectious diseases in health facilities, logistics, coordination efforts, and more.
    • $5 million to the World Food Program (WFP) in support of the PIF Pacific Humanitarian Pathway
    • $3.16 million to World Vision in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu
    • $1.85 million to CARE in the Pacific
    • $1.84 million to Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in Fiji, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Marshall Islands
    • $903,800 to UNICEF in Fiji, Kiribati, the Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Samoa, and Tonga
    • $500,000 to Plan International in Fiji
  • $4.6 million in health assistanceto help governments prepare laboratory systems, activate case-finding and event-based surveillance, support technical experts for response and preparedness, support public-health communications, and support water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and communications activities.
    • $1.85 million to UNICEF for regional programs and data collection in Kiribati, Tuvalu, Fiji, Tonga, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and the Federated States of Micronesia
    • $1.35 million to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia
    • $800,000 to the International Federation of the Red Cross Societies (IFRC) in Kiribati, Tuvalu, Fiji, Palau, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu
    • $700,000 to the World Health Organization (WHO) in the Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Marshall Islands, Palau, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu
  • $5 millionin Economic Support Funds (ESF) to strengthen the capacity of civil society to address second- and third-order effects of COVID-19 by assisting the region’s most vulnerable communities and preventing development backsliding, and by combatting disinformation and hate speech to protect the rights of vulnerable and marginalized groups.

USAID health assistance of $3.5 million (12.2 million PGK) for Papua New Guinea (PNG) to date will help prepare laboratory systems, activate case-finding and event-based surveillance, support technical experts for response and preparedness, risk communication, infection prevention and control, and more.  Funding has supported the following implementing partners:

  • $1.75 million (6.05 million PGK) for FHI 360
  • $1.2 million (4.15 million PGK) for UNICEF
  • $550,000 (1.9 million PGK) for the WHO PNG office

USAID donated brand-new, U.S.-made ventilators to Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, and PNG.  On July 28, U.S. Ambassador Erin McKee handed over 40 ventilators to the PNG government.  On August 19, U.S. Ambassador Joseph Cella officially marked the donation of 50 ventilators to the governments of Fiji (30), Nauru (10), and Kiribati (10).

Department of Defense (DOD) Overseas Humanitarian, Disaster, and Civic Aid (OHDACA) funding is supporting the procurement of medical supplies and other equipment for Fiji, PNG, Solomon Islands, and Samoa.

U.S. Response in the Freely Associated States

The U.S. CDC is the lead agency on COVID-19 response in the Freely Associated States.  CDC communicates regularly with health departments, healthcare professionals, and U.S. interagency colleagues in the Republic of Palau, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia to determine needs and provide assistance.  Under the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2020 and through redirected agency funds, CDC has provided support for health departments in the Freely Associated States through these programs:

  • Public Health Crisis Response Cooperative Agreements provide urgently needed funding to address critical needs at the beginning of the pandemic, including emergency operations, surveillance, epidemiology, laboratory capacity, infection control, mitigation, communications, and other preparedness and response activities.
    • Federated States of Micronesia received $1,261,208
    • Marshall Islands received $1,103,263
    • Palau received $1,010,381 
  • Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity for Prevention and Control of Emerging Infectious Diseases (ELC) program builds epidemiology, laboratory, and health information systems capacity. Additional resources became available to ELC recipients through the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, passed by the U.S. Congress and signed by President Trump on April 24, to implement and oversee expanded COVID-19 testing.
    • Federated States of Micronesia received $4,906,249
    • Marshall Islands received $4,291,825
    • Palau received $3,930,500
  • Immunization Cooperative Agreements assist states and communities in establishing and maintaining preventive health service programs to immunize individuals against vaccine-preventable diseases.
    • Federated States of Micronesia received $150,000
    • Marshall Islands received $100,000
    • Palau received $100,000

The HHS Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) awarded grants to health centers in the Freely Associated States under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed by the U.S. Congress and signed by President Trump on March 27.  Funds may be used to address screening and testing needs, acquire medical supplies, and boost telehealth capacity in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  HHS HRSA also provided funding under the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act.

  • Federated States of Micronesia received $3,855,303 total to support 5 health center grantees in Chuuk (1), Kosrae (2), Pohnpei (1), and Yap (1).
  • Marshall Islands received $1,142,996 total to support 1 health center grantee in Ebeye.
  • Palau received $1,562,977 total to support 1 health center grantee.

HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) awarded funding to Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP) cooperative agreement recipients that may be used for planning, staffing, purchasing personal protective equipment (PPE), enhancing existing surveillance systems, training, and enhancing hospital or health care capacity.

  • Federated States of Micronesia received $177,663
  • Marshall Islands received $176,168
  • Palau received $175,650

CDC, HHS/ASPR and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) partnered to provide LTV 1200 model ventilators from the U.S. Strategic National Stockpile for the Federated States of Micronesia (30), Marshall Islands (10), and Palau (10).

The DOI Office of Insular (OIA) Affairs provided funding through its Technical Assistance Program, made available under the CARES Act, for COVID-19 preparedness, prevention, and response, including a grant to the Pacific Island Health Officers’ Association (PIHOA) to equip the Freely Associated States with on-island COVID-19 testing.

  • Federated States of Micronesia received $7,737,390
  • Marshall Islands received $3,894,720
  • Palau received $1,592,945

DOI/OIA has also approved the use of funding through the Compacts of Free Association for health related COVID-19 preparedness and planning.

  • The Joint Economic Management Committee, comprised of U.S. and Federated States of Micronesia government representatives, approved the use of up to $7 million in prior-year unallocated Compact sector grant funding to be used for health related COVID-19 preparedness and planning.
  • Compact sector grants and other U.S. federal programs fund approximately 75 percent of core operations for the Republic of the Marshall Islands Ministry of Health. DOI/OIA concurred with reprogramming of approximately $750,000 of FY20 Health Sector Grant Assistance to be used for repair and renovation work associated with COVID-19 at the Majuro Hospital.

Under the CARES Act, the Freely Associated States are eligible for two Department of Labor (DOL) COVID-19 pandemic unemployment insurance programs:  Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC).

  • Federated States of Micronesia received $28 million for FPUC and $8.5 million for PUA benefits and administrative costs.
  • Palau received $7.1 million for FPUC and $7.8 million for PUA benefits. Palau also received a National Dislocated Worker Grant of $102,306 for disaster-relief employment, and employment and training services for eligible individuals in communities significantly affected by the spread of COVID-19.

Under the CARES Act, institutions of higher education in the Freely Associated States received funding from the Department of Education (ED) that will expand technological, distance learning, training, and long-term planning capabilities that will ensure learning continues.

  • The College of Micronesia received $3,640,313
  • The College of the Marshall Islands received $1,964,427
  • Palau Community College received $762,509

Finally, DOD has strengthened COVID-19 preparedness through in-kind assistance in the Freely Associated States.

  • In the Federated States of Micronesia, Naval Construction Forces or “Seabees” have constructed handwashing stations in schools and public congregation areas in Yap and Pohnpei, and made improvements to the Misko Beach quarantine site in Pohnpei.
  • The Republic of the Marshall Islands has used the U.S. Army Garrison-Kwajalein Atoll to quarantine several RMI citizens.Joint Region Marianas fulfilled a request from the Palau government to provide cots to support an alternate quarantine site.