Senior Advisor Ervin Massinga
Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs
Good afternoon and thank you for joining this virtual discussion on a topic very close to all of our hearts. My name is Ervin Massinga and I am the Senior Advisor for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs. In this role I oversee U.S. foreign policy and diplomatic relations with the 13 countries in South and Central Asia and am actively involved with current efforts underway to get urgently needed help to the people of India.
It is my pleasure to share a message with you from the Vice President of the United States of America, Kamala Harris.
Vice President Kamala Harris
I am honored to be with you.
For years, diaspora groups like Indiaspora and the American India Foundation have built bridges between the United States and India. And this past year, you have provided vital contributions to COVID-19 relief efforts.
Thank you for your work.
As many of you know, generations of my family come from India. My mother was born and raised in India. And I have family members who live in India today. The welfare of India is critically important to the United States.
The surge of COVID-19 infections and deaths in India is nothing short of heartbreaking. To those of you who have lost loved ones, I send my deepest condolences. As soon as the dire nature of the situation became apparent, our Administration took action.
On Monday, April 26, President Joe Biden spoke with the Prime Minister to offer our support. By Friday, April 30, U.S. military members and civilians were delivering relief on the ground.
Already, we have delivered refillable oxygen cylinders, with more to come. We have delivered oxygen concentrators, with more to come. We have delivered N95 masks, and have more ready to send. We have delivered doses of Remdesivir to treat COVID patients.
Meanwhile, we have announced our full support for suspending patents on COVID-19 vaccines – to help India and other nations vaccinate their people more quickly. India and the United States have the greatest number of COVID-19 cases in the world.
At the beginning of the pandemic, when our hospital beds were stretched, India sent assistance. And today, we are determined to help India in its hour of need.
We do this as friends of India, as members of the Asian Quad, and as part of the global community. I believe that if we continue to work together – across nations and sectors – we will all get through this.
Senior Advisor Ervin Massinga
Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs
We thank Vice President Harris for taking the time to share those thoughtful remarks and for her support of the COVID-19 relief effort underway to help India.
I know many of you are mourning the loss of friends and family members in India and others have been working long hours to provide much needed relief to the people of India.
Let me begin by assuring each of you that the entire U.S. Government – from President Biden to our team at the Embassy and consulates on the ground – is doing everything we can to help India. In the last week, six air shipments of vital assistance have landed in India. These flights included health supplies, including oxygen and oxygen supplies, N95 masks, rapid diagnostic tests, and medicine. U.S. assistance is expected to be about $100 million. We are bringing to bear the strength, innovation, and unique capabilities of the American people to assist those suffering in India. And we recognize that the pandemic will not be over for anyone until it is over for everyone.
In my 26 years with the Department of State, I have never seen such an outpouring of personal and institutional generosity as we have experienced from the Americans of all backgrounds in the last month. The level of focus and dedication from private sector, civil society and community-based organizations, including contributions from Indian-Americans, has contributed to ensuring much needed supplies and resources get to those most in need.
As President Biden said to Prime Minister Modi last week “We will do everything possible to help India at this time.” President Biden’s discussion with Prime Minister Modi last week marks their fourth conversation in the administration’s first 100 days. Secretary Blinken and other senior Department officials have also been regularly engaged with their Indian counterparts to address the most recent coronavirus wave.
As many of you know, the U.S. and India have been partners on global health for seven decades. Before COVID-19, we successfully collaborated to battle polio, smallpox, and HIV, as well as partnerships through the Global Health Security Agenda. Today our CDC and India’s Epidemic Intelligence Service remain close collaborators on the current pandemic and USAID programs continue to play a significant role supporting public health in India, including through the COVID pandemic.
Just as India came to our aid when our own health care system was stretched thin at the onset of COVID-19 at this time last year, the United States stands with India now, including by addressing oxygen, protective equipment, therapeutics, and other shortages.
The American private sector has likewise responded with extraordinary and generous donations to the Indian people – both directly and in partnership with the U.S. government. Secretary Blinken met with many of the most prominent U.S.
CEOs last week, all of whom expressed solidarity with the people in India and showed their commitment through the commitment of hundreds of millions of dollars in financial and in-kind assistance to India. Both the private financial and in-kind donations immediately enable India to rapidly acquire critically needed medicine and supplies.
Across the U.S. government we are leveraging resources to address the crisis in India. We are joined today by USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator for Asia, Anjali Kaur. DAA Kaur is an international development professional with vast experience managing integrated global health programs. Before joining USAID, DAA Kaur worked with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, UNICEF and the World Bank.
DAA Kaur, can you please provide us with an update on USAID’s work to support COVID-19 relief efforts in India going forward?
Deputy Assistant Administrator Anjali Kaur
Thank you very much, it’s an incredible honor to be with you here today. As a member of the diaspora myself and having worked on public health in India for a number of years, I have been so touched by the magnitude of the outpouring of support for India.
As you heard from Vice President Harris, USAID, through the generosity of the American people, is rapidly responding to meet India’s most urgent and immediate needs as it battles this devastating COVID-19 surge.
Our whole-of-U.S. Government response has been immediate, targeted to India’s evolving needs, and informed by nonstop consultations with our Government of India counterparts and a multitude of other stakeholders.
Over the past week, USAID dispatched six planes in six days to India full of emergency supplies that will save lives and help contain the pandemic.
The planes were fully loaded with more than 2,000 oxygen cylinders and concentrators; 2.5 million N95 masks to protect healthcare professionals and other frontline workers; 1 million rapid diagnostic tests kits; and 125,000 vials of medicine to help treat critically ill patients.
At the same time, we mobilized our partners in India to immediately expand existing programs to meet urgent needs.
For instance, as hospitals across the country ran out of oxygen and related supplies, within days of receiving a request from the Government of India, USAID quickly mobilized funding to purchase 1,000 oxygen concentrators. These life-saving units, with a lifespan of more than five years, will provide oxygen to hundreds of primary health care facilities.
USAID is also supporting the Government of India’s efforts to establish 150 Pressure Swing Adsorption oxygen generating plants, which will allow 150 healthcare facilities to generate their own oxygen, rather than rely on oxygen deliveries.
The U.S. Government’s assistance to combat the current crisis so far totals about $100 million.
As India’s needs evolve, our response will as well. USAID is meeting daily with Government of India counterparts to ensure that our assistance meets urgent needs and is targeted to where it is needed most, as quickly as possible.
This surge of immediate assistance builds on our 70-year development partnership and USAID’s ongoing efforts to mitigate the pandemic in India. USAID’s COVID-19 assistance since the beginning of the pandemic has reached millions of Indians across more than 20 states and union territories.
We have helped to provide life-saving treatments, disseminate public health messages to local communities, strengthen case-finding and surveillance, and mobilize innovative financing mechanisms to bolster emergency preparedness.
Of course, none of this work would be possible without our amazing USAID team based in India, who are working tirelessly under incredibly difficult circumstances. While they themselves are living in the midst of this surge, and facing all its perils head-on, they still are managing to orchestrate a complex U.S. response effort.
For instance, Ritika Chopra, who has worked for USAID for 10 years and the U.S. Government for 20, recently overcame the infection herself. In an effort to help family, friends and colleagues navigate the unknowns, Ritika used the same creativity and innovation she brings to her work to create and share a databank of life-saving information, including where to find hospital beds, oxygen suppliers, food for patients, tele-consultations, and much more. Unfortunately, this list has come in handy for so many in our USAID family.
We are fortunate to have colleagues such as Ritika and remain inspired by their strength, resilience and leadership and that of all of the people of India. Our hearts are with all of them as they battle this incredible surge.
Through it all, USAID has received an overwhelming response from both U.S. and Indian companies, as well as the Indian diaspora, – evidenced by so many of you watching this event today and supporting this crisis in every way possible. Even individual states, such as California, have responded by partnering with USAID to facilitate a donation of life-saving oxygen supplies.
Decades of experience in disaster relief and recovery have shown that the best way to help people affected by disaster is to make cash donations to reputable relief and charitable organizations on the ground.
For more information on how you can help people in India affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, please visit the website of the Center for International Disaster Information, which is w-w-w-dot-c-i-d-i-dot-org. For companies looking to support these efforts, please reach out to email@example.com. This information will also be shared in the chat.
The United States continues to stand with the people of India, as we have for more than 70 years. We will fight this global pandemic together. This virus knows no borders and therefore we know the pandemic is not over anywhere until it is over everywhere.
Senior Advisor Ervin Massinga
Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs
Thank you DAA Kaur.
And now it is my pleasure to introduce our panelists, who will discuss the ways they and their organizations, foundations, and communities are working to provide COVID-19 relief in India and how they suggest others can do the same.
Ms. Lata Krishnan is the Founder and Co-Chair of the Board of the American Indian Foundation. She is a technology entrepreneur, startup investor, and philanthropist as well as a member of numerous public and private boards, including the Stanford Medical Center and the London School of Economics’, South Asia Centre.
Honorable Virginia State Senator Dr. Ghazala Hashmi represents the 10th district in the Senate of Virginia and is the first Muslim woman elected to the Virginia State Senate. She worked as an educator and academic administrator for 25 years before entering politics. Senator Hashmi was the founding director of the center for excellence in teaching and learning at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College where she was recognized for improving diversity, inclusion, and multicultural enrichment.
Mr. MR Rangaswami is the Founder and Chair of the Board of Indiaspora as well as a software executive, investor, entrepreneur, community builder and philanthropist. In addition to co-founding one of the earliest angel investment firms, the Sand Hill Group, he also founded the Corporate Eco Forum, an organization for Global 500 companies to accelerate ecologically sustainable business innovation.
Dr. Gunisha Kaur is an Assistant Professor at Weill Cornell Medicine and the Medical Director and the Weill Cornell Center for Human Rights. Dr. Kaur is an anesthesiologist that specializes in human rights research and a leader in the American Sikh community that has been working through numerous organizations on COVID education and relief. She holds a B.S. from Cornell University, a masters Master’s Medical Anthropology from Harvard University in 2015. Dr. Kaur’s research interests are in advancing the clinical care of refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers.
I would like to personally thank each of our panelists for providing their unique and valuable perspectives today and for participating in this important discussion. We intend this event to be the first of a robust series of public engagements between the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs and the Indian American community in the year to come.
As has been said, the outpouring of support and assistance from the diaspora community has been incredible. If you are looking for additional ways to support India and South Asia in combatting Covid-19, the Department of State is coordinating closely with other U.S. government agencies and non-governmental partners to facilitate this assistance and has established a team to specifically help facilitate large diaspora donations. Please contact our Department of State South Asia COVID Assistance Coordination group at firstname.lastname@example.org to channel your generous offer into effective assistance.
I would like to conclude by reiterating that, as President Biden has said, “we are all in this together.” The only way we will overcome the pandemic is through collaboration and cooperation. Everyone participating in this event today is an important part of that effort, and I thank you for all you are doing to help India at this time of need, and help us all collectively face this truly global challenge.