5 reasons Congress must act urgently on the global response to COVID-19

5 reasons Congress must act urgently on the global response to COVID-19
© Getty Images

While the number of new global COVID-19 cases has hit an all-time high, Congress has thus far only set aside one-tenth of one percent of all COVID-19 funding to helping low- and middle-income countries tackle this once-in-a-century threat. With another round of supplemental COVID-19 legislation taking shape in Congress, now is the time to make major investments in preventing a catastrophe overseas.

In a typical year, the U.S. commits about one percent of federal resources to international assistance — a modest, high-value investment. Why are we only committing a fraction of that now? A pandemic by definition is a global outbreak, and our success keeping Americans safe from future spikes of the disease depends on containing it globally.

Here are five reasons the U.S. must commit substantial resources to a global COVID-19 response in the next Congressional funding package: 

ADVERTISEMENT

First, the U.S. will not be safe if COVID-19 rages in other countries. Travel bans and attempts to cut ourselves off from the rest of the world are not a long term strategy. The lasting solution to the new pandemic is a global approach, with broadly accessible mitigation measures and health services in the immediate term and, one day, a globally distributed vaccine. For our own safety, the U.S. must be part of both efforts. Otherwise, COVID-19 will boomerang back to the U.S

Second, COVID-19 could undermine decades of progress against epidemics that kill millions of people every year: AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. If people continue to have trouble accessing preventive health care services and securing their daily, life-saving medicines, the death toll from HIV, TB, malaria and other diseases could be higher than deaths from COVID-19 itself.

In South Africa diagnoses of tuberculosis fell by a third during a month of lockdown, meaning many people going undiagnosed and untreated. In one province, 20 percent fewer people picked up their antiretrovirals to treat their HIV. Researchers at Imperial College estimate that if the impact of COVID-19 is not mitigated in heavily affected countries, the new pandemic could result in a 10 percent increase in death from HIV, 20 percent in TB and 36 percent in malaria. 

Americans should be proud that our considerable investments against AIDS, TB and malaria have saved millions of lives and put the world on a path to ending these epidemics. COVID threatens to erase that progress.

Third, America’s place in the world after COVID-19 will be defined in part by how we respond to the pandemic beyond our borders. Because of COVID-19, Africa, which up to now had some of the fastest-growing economies in the world, faces the potential for economic disaster and steeply rising poverty. China is rushing to provide COVID-19 related aid. The U.S. must also play a central role in averting disaster.

ADVERTISEMENT

Fourth, we have effective, already proven options for channeling immediate aid. Our highly successful bilateral global health programs, such as the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, along with public-private partnerships such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and Gavi, have all demonstrated dramatic impact, help strengthen health systems, and are ready to step up to help countries address this new health crisis. 

Finally, America still has a moral obligation to help prevent humanitarian disasters whenever possible. While lockdowns can be useful in stopping the spread of the virus, they have unfortunately led to intense economic hardship, hunger, and rising poverty rates in many countries around the world. We have the ability to step in and mitigate these devastating domino effects. If we don’t, international organizations have warned that on the continent of Africa alone, 190,000 people could die of COVID-19 in the next year. Globally an additional 130 million people are at risk of starvation by the end of 2020 because of COVID-19.

There is no time to waste. The world, including the U.S., needs to invest now to help countries and communities protect themselves from COVID-19 while also ensuring that other preventable, treatable diseases don’t once again become a death sentence. As Congress develops a new supplemental appropriations package in June, substantially increased investments in the global response must be included. 

Chris CollinsChristopher (Chris) Carl CollinsNY Republican Chris Jacobs wins special election to replace Chris Collins 5 things to watch in Tuesday's primaries Trump drags mild-mannered regulator into political firefight MORE the president of Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.