The United States and the Dominican Republic enjoy a strong bilateral security cooperation which includes emergency preparedness training and financial assistance for the Dominican government to better serve its citizenry during a disaster.
As the world confronts COVID-19 together, these resources and training are being put into practice. On April 17, the U.S. committed $1.4 million to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak in the Dominican Republic. The funding will support epidemiological analysis and forecasting, identification and follow-up of contact tracing, as well as pandemic surveillance.
U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Agustin Dominguez, chief at the Office of Security Cooperation (SCO) at the U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo, told Diálogo that they recently completed two Humanitarian Assistance Program projects. One purchase was for raw materials for a local fashion company to manufacture face masks, and the second purchase was for 220 personal protection equipment kits (overalls, face masks, gloves, shoe covers) for the Emergency Operations Center (COE).
The U.S. has also committed over $677 million from 2010 to 2020 to Caribbean nations, including the Dominican Republic. Programs funded by the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative and managed through different U.S. agencies, including the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL), the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Department of Defense, have strengthened the capabilities of both the Dominican military and police to protect its citizens. One of the key parts of their cooperation has been preparing for emergencies, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Lieutenant Colonel Guillermo Rojas from the SCO Army section at the U.S. Embassy, “the training and resources provided by the United States has enabled the COE to be ready to respond to a natural disaster or an unforeseen emergency such as COVID-19.”
The U.S. has sponsored numerous trainings for the COE in the Dominican Republic and other countries in the region. A notable example is the Incident Command System training designed to assist the COE on preparing effective and efficient domestic incident management by integrating a combination of facilities, equipment, personnel, procedures, and communications within a common organizational structure,” he added.
INL supported the creation of a national 911 emergency response system in the Dominican Republic with over $20 million in funding. As of this year, the system serves over 80 percent of Dominicans and has been essential in the response efforts of COVID-19. INL also works closely with the Dominican National Police to strengthen the institution and train officers on crisis preparedness.
In a recent interview with the U.S. Embassy press office, Dominican Republic Colonel Edwin Olivares, COE deputy director, spoke about the assistance efforts from U.S. Southern Command, including training exercises such as Allied Humanitarian Forces, which was hosted by the Dominican Republic in 2019, where they were trained on the proper handling of hazardous materials.
“Training and technical assistance, along with equipment provided by the United States, have been crucial to our ability to respond to this crisis,” Col. Olivares said. “We are currently using all of the equipment that was donated to us and I cannot imagine a day in this current situation without this assistance.”
“I can tell you the following: There are developed countries whose emergency response personnel have been infected by COVID, but this has not been the case for our personnel who transport individuals infected with COVID or under suspicion of infection. This has been in part thanks to the equipment and training provided by the U.S. government.”