KATHMANDU: Over 4.5 million doses of the U.S.-donated pediatric COVID-19 vaccines arrived in Nepal – that is on top of the almost 4 million adult vaccine doses that the United States has supplied.
The donation of vaccines also celebrates 75 years of diplomatic relations between Nepal and the United States.
The support for Nepal’s health sector reflects the powerful results of the partnership between the two countries.
In an interview with Khabarhub’s Ishwar Dev Khanal, US Ambassador to Nepal Randy Berry says the US Embassy is proud to work with Nepal to fight COVID-19 saying that its global vaccination efforts save lives and will help bring an end to the pandemic.
Ambassador Berry is flying back to the US after completing his tenure in Nepal.
During his stay in Nepal, Ambassador Berry said he is amazed by the warm hospitality and culture of the Nepali people. Moreover, the jatras, festivals, and celebrations in Nepal have been some of the most meaningful and best experiences of his life. Excerpts:
Could you comment on the U.S. assistance to Nepal for its COVID-19 response?
The United States has been assisting Nepal in its fight against COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. So far, we have given Nepal over $124 million through different assistance packages.
These funds have been used for equipment and supplies; training for healthcare workers and volunteers; and campaigns to encourage people to get vaccinated.
I’m proud to say that, recently, over 4.5 million doses of the U.S.-donated pediatric COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Nepal – this is on top of the almost 4 million adult vaccine doses we’ve supplied. As a parent, nothing makes me happier than seeing kids getting vaccinated.
What is the coordination process?
In order to see that the U.S. – donated COVID-19 vaccines, respirators, or PPE or other supplies are distributed effectively throughout Nepal – be it to rural communities or at schools here in Kathmandu – we work in close partnership with the Ministry of Health and Population and other development partners in Nepal.
Before that happens, the United States coordinates with COVAX, which helps deliver vaccines around the world. USAID and the U.S. Department of Defense—which have separately donated millions of dollars’ worth of COVID-19 assistance, also coordinate with the Government of Nepal and implementing partners to ensure the aid gets to those who need it most.
What is the current situation of COVID-19 in the United States?
Right now, we’re certainly in a better position than two years ago. However, as you know here in Nepal, variants happen, just like Delta, Omicron, and its sub-variants.
The world still needs to be on guard for the foreseeable future – but fortunately, we know things like masking and vaccines help.
Will the US research how to prevent the outbreak of new viruses like COVID-19?
We are continuously researching for outbreaks of viruses like COVID-19. Because disease knows no borders, we’d like to contribute to finding and discovering cures to help.
We all face pandemics and epidemics – and perhaps because of climate change, we will face more. The only way to mitigate the effects of future pandemics is through research, science, and global cooperation.
You were the U.S. Ambassador when the COVID-19 pandemic was at its height. How do you view Nepal’s handling of the pandemic?
I think it’s amazing to look at the lower numbers of COVID cases and higher vaccine rates here in Nepal compared to other countries.
Nepal has been successful in many ways in handling the pandemic both on its own, and with the support of international partners like the United States.
The U.S. government’s support to Nepal’s health sector, through USAID, reflects one of the longest-standing and most successful development assistance programs in Nepal.
This partnership built the foundation that enabled the success of continuous vaccine rollouts. But the efforts of not only the Nepali government but of Nepali health workers and communities I think contribute to this achievement.
As an ambassador, what have been your priorities for the US-Nepal bilateral relationship?
My priorities have been to maintain the historical relationship of our two nations and support one another in building resilient democracies, combating the effects of climate change, supporting human rights, etc.
To do this I’ve tried to focus on building a relationship based not only between our governments, but also on the level of the citizens of Nepal and the United States.
Given the history of partnership and our record of achieving results, I’ll admit I’m sometimes disappointed by the periodic suspicion and disinformation about U.S. motives here in Nepal.
I want to be clear: honoring Nepal’s sovereignty, culture, history, and prosperity is our priority –nothing else.
How do you find Nepal, its culture, and its people?
I am always amazed by the warm hospitality and culture of the Nepali people. I love experiencing the jatras, festivals, and celebrations that mark important occasions.
Seeing the Bisket Jatra in Bhaktapur, for example, or the Macchendranath chariot, or the Nawa Durga, or the Tiji festival in Lo Manthang – these have been some of the most meaningful and best experiences of my life.