Partnering to end COVID-19 in Asia

Young female health worker vaccinating man (USAID)
The U.S. government has donated over 33 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to the Philippines. With USAID’s support, the vaccine has reached the elderly and people with preexisting conditions. (USAID)

The United States has helped more than 30 nations in Asia combat COVID-19, donating millions of vaccine doses, while partnering to save lives and boost economic recovery.

The COVID-19 pandemic has killed more than 1 million people in Asia. It has forced nearly 5 million families into poverty in Southeast Asia alone.

Amid these challenges, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and partners in Asia are helping communities to overcome the pandemic and get back on their feet. USAID and local partners distribute lifesaving vaccines, combat disinformation, boost local health agencies and help small businesses reopen.

Here are ways USAID is fighting COVID-19 and facilitating economic recovery in Asia.

Innovative outreach

Crew filming indoors (Courtesy of Internews)
Internews Kyrgyz Republic created television programs to share accurate information about COVID-19. The programs were broadcast on 20 stations. (Courtesy of Internews)

When the pandemic began, Kyrgyzstan faced an explosion of disinformation that complicated efforts to introduce COVID-19 prevention methods, according to Elina Karakulova, director of USAID partner Internews’ national office.

Internews conducted fact-checking, briefed media partners on communicating virus prevention information, created a television series on COVID-19, and used social media to reach audiences in Uzbek, Russian and Kyrgyz languages.

The content received more than 1.5 million engagements — equivalent to reaching every third internet user in Kyrgyzstan, Internews says. Videos aired on more than 20 popular TV channels, delivering credible COVID-19 information to 97% of Kyrgyzstani viewers.

Expanding health care and vaccine access

When hospitals in the Philippines were short on staff and supplies, USAID provided oxygen equipment and helped train 43,000 health care workers and thousands of volunteers. The U.S. government also has donated over 33 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to the Philippines, reaching people in densely populated and rural areas through mobile clinics.

“I believe that investments in public health strongly contribute to a country’s development,” said Dr. Yolanda Oliveros, deputy health director for USAID/Philippines and one of the USAID foreign service nationals (non–U.S. citizens employed by USAID) contributing to strengthening local health systems. “And likewise, a country’s development will boost public health interventions through locally led investments.”

Supporting small businesses

Woman in pink clothing standing in doorway (Courtesy of Samhita Social Ventures)
Farmer Kalpana used a loan from Samhita Social Ventures to purchase fertilizer, seeds and goats after COVID-19 shuttered her small business in India. (Courtesy of Samhita Social Ventures)

The pandemic’s economic toll forced many small business owners in India back into poverty. With USAID support, Samhita–Collective Good Foundation (CGF) and other partners formed the REVIVE Alliance to aid the economic recovery of women and youth.

The alliance has helped thousands of microentrepreneurs access grants and low-cost loans and allowed 175,000 entrepreneurs to digitize their businesses to reach new markets. The alliance also distributes information on government programs that provide financial and other support for business owners.

Over the next few years, the alliance aims to help 10 million additional entrepreneurs expand their businesses. “There was no way without USAID’s support that we could be collaborative and innovative or think and execute at scale,” said Priya Naik, Samhita-CGF co-founder and chief executive.

A version of this story appeared on Medium.