February 26, 2021
Habari zenu. I’m Don Wright, the U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania. I want to talk to you about COVID-19, and how we can work together to prevent its spread and help all of us stay safe.
Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, almost two and a half million people have died of the disease. The loss is staggering, and no country has been untouched. In my own country, the United States of America, we have lost over 500,000 of our fellow citizens. To further complicate things, new variants of the virus have caused another more intense wave of infections across the world, including the African continent. It has become clear that the virus variant has arrived in Tanzania, also. I’ve been encouraged by recent statements from the Ministry of Health acknowledging COVID-19 as a public health priority in Tanzania and urging citizens to take basic precautions: such as avoiding crowds, wearing masks, and social distancing. This is good advice and I urge everyone to follow it.
In addition to implementing basic precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, there are at least two other important tools that are critical to controlling this pandemic.
First, in order to know if response measures are having the intended impact, it is critical to collect and report information about testing and cases. That’s why it is so important for all governments to share accurate and timely information about the number of cases in their countries to the World Health Organization. Sharing this information reassures citizens that their governments are fighting to protect their health and their livelihoods. Furthermore, such reporting allows researchers and scientists to better track the disease and prevent unnecessary deaths – both nationally and regionally.
The second tool is vaccines. As our new Secretary of State Tony Blinken stated, “Until everyone in the world is vaccinated, then no-one is really fully safe.” Vaccines have helped eradicate some of the worst diseases on earth, and there is no doubt that a mass immunization campaign will save lives. Just look at the numbers in the US; in the past couple of weeks, as millions of vaccinations have been given, the numbers of new Covid-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths have started to fall. I urge the Government of Tanzania to convene its health experts and review the evidence on vaccines.
As the world’s largest health and humanitarian donor, the United States continues to lead the global response to the Covid-19 pandemic, contributing more than $1.5 billion to COVID-19 mitigation efforts worldwide and pledging $4 billion to speed global distribution of vaccines. Here in Tanzania, we dedicated $16.4 million to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic since the first confirmed case was diagnosed in March of 2020. The United States stands ready to ramp up our efforts and we are committed to working side by side with Tanzania to defeat Covid-19.
I will close this message on a personal note. I am a doctor by profession. Before being named Ambassador to Tanzania, I spent over 30 years working in the public health sector. I can promise you that the public health measures I’ve been speaking about WORK. They will save lives if they are adopted. I urge all Tanzanians to join now in supporting these measures so that we can protect each other and the ones we love.