It has been reported that officials in the Trump administration are drafting a plan to donate ventilators to African countries battling the novel coronavirus. The effort comes as President Trump touts the recently ramped-up production of the equipment has made him the “king of ventilators.”
The plan is still in fledgling stages, but two Trump administration officials have confirmed it. And it has the potential to save lives on a continent sorely lacking such machines and enhance America’s position on the continent as China seeks to gain diplomatic dominance across Africa.
Even though President Trump has promised to share ventilators with other countries, he’s cracked down on the export of cheaper but arguably more important items essential to stop the spread of the disease: masks, gloves, gowns and other personal protective equipment that are currently in shortage in the United States. He’s also halted funding to the World Health Organization, whose expertise is highly regarded and actively sought in many African countries.
These actions have raised concerns among current and former U.S. officials that the administration isn’t being strategic in its virus-related aid plans.
“There’s a need for ventilators, but there’s also a need for a systemic response,” said Gayle Smith. He oversaw the U.S. Agency for International Development during the Obama administration and now heads the ONE Campaign. “You need a functioning supply chain that is providing what’s needed, where it’s needed when it’s needed.”
“Last year, America manufactured, from a dead start, 30,000 ventilators. And this year, the number will be over 150,000 ventilators,” Trump said a week ago. “It could be as high as 200,000 — far more than we’ll ever need.”
The increased numbers follow weeks of criticism directed at Trump over what state officials had warned was an inevitable ventilator shortage. The president repeatedly locked horns over the matter with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, whose escalating cries for more federal help seemed to irked the White House, which argued that the governor was overstating the need.
Trump now considers the matter settled, hailing Cuomo’s own statements affirming that the federal government had provided everything he had requested.