Thank you, Ambassador Norman, for those kind words and for your continued leadership at the United Nations.
Good morning to everyone, and thank you all for being here. I’m delighted to be joined today by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Acting Administrator John Barsa.
As we mark the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, it is incredibly important that we – the world’s top ten humanitarian assistance donors – come together to celebrate our accomplishments, discuss the impact of the current COVID-19 crisis, and reaffirm humanitarian principles.
The challenges we face today are unprecedented, and we must continue to lead the world in responding to them.
I would like to thank all of you for your leadership and your partnership. Our appreciation also extends to international organization partners like the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Program, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) for providing assistance to tens of millions of people in every corner of the globe. From Afghanistan to Yemen, Venezuela to Syria, South Sudan, and beyond, your combined humanitarian efforts have made a life-saving difference. We look forward to hearing your important perspectives later in the program.
It is no surprise that two of the dedicated humanitarian leaders joining us today are fellow Americans – Henrietta Fore of UNICEF and David Beasley of WFP. They are perfect examples of the selfless commitment of Americans to help those in need. This same commitment is seen every day in the work of America’s robust civil society, including faith-based organizations, our private sector and its remarkable sense of corporate social responsibility, and private American citizens who dedicate their time to humanitarian work and who generously contribute their own funds. We call it the “All of America” response to humanitarian needs.
While there is still a lot to do, and I will get to that in a moment, I want to first highlight our combined efforts over the past several decades. According to one estimate, international assistance has helped to save nearly 700 million lives in the past 25 years. During the 1980s, when famine hit Ethiopia, we rallied together to bring life-saving food assistance to millions of Ethiopians. This united front not only saved lives but also shaped the way we would address future food crises.
In the United States, we made major investments in establishing Early Warning Systems to ensure that timely information is available to decision makers. We also established and increased our international food assistance, including creating the Farmer to Farmer program, which helps communities increase their agricultural productivity. To date, Farmer to Farmer has impacted more than 1.5 million lives around the world.
The group around this table today has also found new and innovative ways to deliver support to people who need it the most. Cash allowances or vouchers to exchange for goods are often the most effective and efficient way of supporting people in crisis, and this group has distributed roughly $5.6 billion in cash and voucher assistance in 2019, constituting 17.9 percent of total international humanitarian assistance and representing a doubling in just four years from 2016 to 2019.
Our collective efforts in the health space have helped to fight against Ebola, polio, and the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The U.S. investment on the HIV/AIDS has helped to save over 18 million lives, preventing millions of HIV infections, and achieving HIV/AIDS epidemic control in more than 50 countries around the world. Microcredit programs that support small business development, water and sanitation improvements that mitigate health threats, and raising school attendance for girls are just some of the accomplishments we can be proud of.
Now, let me turn to a recent and terrible milestone— at this moment, there are now nearly 80 million people forcibly displaced worldwide. Among that number, we’ve seen more than five million Venezuelans displaced from their homes by the corrupt and illegitimate Maduro regime. It has been three years since the ethnic cleansing that forced more than 700,000 Rohingya to flee from Burma to Bangladesh and nine years that the Syrian people have suffered under the brutal Assad regime, resulting in the displacement of more than 12 million people. Tragically, these are all man-made crises.
Global food insecurity is on the rise with more than 820 million people around the world suffering from chronic hunger and malnutrition in 2019, returning to levels from almost a decade ago and made worse by the supply and demand shocks brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The majority of these individuals live in conflict-affected areas like Yemen where 80 percent of the population requires humanitarian assistance.
And, with all of that, I still did not cover the ongoing crises in Africa. Layered on top of existing crises, the pandemic has greatly exacerbated the vulnerability of those already suffering around the world, very likely pushing tens of millions into poverty.
To all of those suffering, let there be no doubt that the United States is with you.
The United States contributed more than $9 billion in relief for humanitarian crises last year and more than $70 billion in humanitarian assistance in the past decade. Above and beyond this longstanding commitment to international humanitarian assistance, the United States has provided more than $900 million this year alone in humanitarian assistance for the global COVID-19 response.
In addition to this official assistance from the United States government, the generosity of American private businesses, non-profit groups, charitable organizations, faith-based organizations, and individuals mobilized more than $4.9 billion in donations and assistance to the global COVID-19 response.
In that vein, I have the pleasure today to announce that the United States will provide more than $720 million in additional humanitarian assistance for the Syria crisis response – both for Syrians inside the country and for those in desperate need across the region. It brings our total support since the start of the crisis to more than $12 billion.
The United States is honored to lead the way, and we are proud to walk this path with our partners and be among the top ten humanitarian donors worldwide. I hope that those tuning in to this event today take note not only of those who are here representing the top ten humanitarian donors for 2020 and 2019, but also of the many smaller donors who make large contributions in relation to their size and contrast that with some countries of means who may claim the mantle of global leadership but do not show up when it counts.
We must all work together and count on everyone to do their part – from longstanding donor nations to new and aspiring donors. Together, we can have a profound impact.
Thank you, and I will now turn it over to Acting Administrator John Barsa.