US Boosts Salvadoran Response Capacity in the Fight against COVID-19

US Boosts Salvadoran Response Capacity in the Fight against COVID-19

By Lorena Baires/Diálogo
June 16, 2020

The United States is leading humanitarian assistance efforts for the Salvadoran people, by providing biosecurity equipment for health professionals, supplies for families affected, and medical equipment to save lives.

“We are proud to have delivered more than 80,000 care products, meals, sheets, clothes, masks, gloves, gallons of hand sanitizer, and water and other critical necessities for people in need in quarantine centers […],” Ronald Johnson, U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador, said in an editorial published in the local press. “We were able to help allocate more than 100,000 kits to conduct COVID-19 tests to El Salvador. We also helped bring necessary medications to more than 800 Salvadoran families who are in the United States, unable to return.”

The United States also delivered biosecurity suits, face shields, and other items for medical personnel who assist COVID-19 patients. (Photo: Gloria Cañas/Diálogo)

The Salvadoran hospital network received 250 portable ventilators for their intensive care units through the U.S. Agency for International Development on May 26. The equipment is worth $3.09 million and includes one year of training for its use and maintenance. The delivery fulfilled the promise of help that U.S. President Donald Trump personally made to his counterpart Nayib Bukele in a phone call on April 24.

U.S. assistance also strengthens institutions such as the Salvadoran Armed Forces (FAES, in Spanish), which tends to the needs of the country’s most remote communities. “We are especially thankful to U.S. Southern Command for maintaining the infrastructure strengthening project for the units that deliver food to families affected by the pandemic,” said Army Brigadier General Miguel Rivas, deputy chief of FAES’ Joint Chiefs of Staff. “This support shows the strength of our historic ties of trust and cooperation.”

The United States indicated that its support will not only help fight the pandemic, but also strengthen the Salvadoran economy. “We recently announced assistance worth $2.8 million to help people in detention centers, including Salvadorans who returned from the United States, so that they can acclimate to their lives here and re-engage in economic activity in their communities,” Ambassador Johnson said. “We have also allocated an additional $2.6 million for health programs, which will start in the coming weeks. Just a few days ago, the [U.S.] Secretary of State announced the resumption of $66.5 million in assistance for a range of cooperation programs for El Salvador.”

The significance of the partnership between both countries has increased as a result of the pandemic, especially since the amount of money sent from abroad might decrease. “Remittances are a foreign source of revenue that represent 20 percent of the country’s GDP; in other words, 20 out of every $100 comes from our fellow countrymen abroad, especially from the United States,” said Salvadoran economist Rigoberto Monge. “More than $5 billion entered the country last year [2019], an amount close to the total generated by exports. It would be alarming if that income were to decrease.”

However, Ambassador Johnson said, “Remittances may not stay at their current levels, and our economies will need mutual support to recover. But together we have built schools and roads, created jobs, and reduced violence. We have worked together so that our Salvadoran friends can see that it is possible to build the future they wish to have here in El Salvador. So, after the immediate crisis fades, we will be here to do our part and more.”