USAID issues 'urgent request' for COVID-19 medical equipment

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A box of face masks at an NHS National Procurement warehouse in Larkhall, Scotland. Photo by: REUTERS / Andrew Milligan

WASHINGTON — On Monday, the U.S. Agency for International Development issued an “urgent request” to its implementing partner organizations for personal protective equipment and other medical supplies.

“USAID has been asked to identify organizations that have personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical supplies potentially available for use by the U.S. government in response to COVID-19,” Matthew Johnson, communications director at USAID’s office of acquisition and assistance, wrote in the email, which Devex obtained.

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In response to multiple inquiries from Devex, the agency would not confirm whether those supplies are to be used in foreign countries where USAID operates or inside the U.S.

Devex has learned that USAID’s urgent appeal for equipment came at the request of the White House Office of Management and Budget.

“OMB continues to be at the frontlines of engaging agencies and the private sector to provide as many available resources as possible for the President’s unprecedented coronavirus response,” an OMB spokesperson wrote to Devex.

USAID attached a spreadsheet to the email outlining the specific equipment needed, which includes biohazard bags, N95 masks, gloves, ventilators, FDA-approved swab kits, and more than two dozen other kinds of items. USAID’s partners were asked to inform the agency how many of each item they had available and in which city and state they were located.

“Please review the attached spreadsheet and let us know by close of business today if you have any equipment available,” Johnson wrote Monday.

The request follows reports that the U.S. State Department has enlisted its consulates and embassies in an effort to buy any available equipment that other countries might have available to fight COVID-19.

“We encourage your country to mobilize all appropriate domestic resources to scale up production of items needed to address this outbreak, including steps to mobilize potential productive capacity,” read a State Department cable obtained by NBC News.

The U.S. currently has the highest number of reported COVID-19 cases in the world, but health experts fear low-income countries are poised to see a rapid spread of the coronavirus, which could overwhelm weak health systems unless the global community mounts a rapid prevention and response effort.

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About the author

  • Michael Igoe

    Michael Igoe is a Senior Reporter with Devex, based in Washington, D.C. He covers U.S. foreign aid, global health, climate change, and development finance. Prior to joining Devex, Michael researched water management and climate change adaptation in post-Soviet Central Asia, where he also wrote for EurasiaNet. Michael earned his bachelor's degree from Bowdoin College, where he majored in Russian, and his master’s degree from the University of Montana, where he studied international conservation and development.