By Arul Louis
United Nations, March 29 (IANS) In a reversal of the common image of UN health aid going to poor nations, the world organisation has donated 250,000 surgical masks to the United States, one of the richest nations in the world.
With COVID-19 ravaging the richer countries more severely than the poor so far, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio accepted the donation at the UN at its headquarters on Saturday for a city struggling to meet the needs of its healthcare workers.
He said, “I thank the United Nations for their much-needed donation. New Yorkers and the international community stand together in this fight.”
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, “These masks, in surplus to United Nations requirements, will be given to the medical professionals in New York City who have been working courageously, selflessly, and tirelessly in response to the spread of COVID-19.”
New York City reported 30,765 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Saturday night and has faced a severe shortage of protective materials for its healthcare workers.
New York Post reported that nurses in a city hospital have been wearing trash bags as protective gowns because the facility did not have enough supplies.
An emergency room nurse in the city died on Tuesday after coming down with COVID-19.
The New York State Nurses Association said its “members at many facilities are routinely being asked to provide care for patients with confirmed of suspected COVID-19 without proper protection.”
The association said that some hospitals have been locking up N95 masks to restrict access to them for nurses, while “others have directed staff to reuse them, storing them in and paper bags between use.”
Guterres said, “To us, New York is not just our home or the headquarters of the United Nations. It is a vibrant international capital through which the world communicates, debates, trades, and prospers.”
“This generous donation goes to highlight the enduring bond between the United Nations and New York City,” said Penny Abeywardena, the city’s Commissioner for International Affairs.
The US is the biggest contributor to the UN’s finances, footing about 22 per cent of it budget and President Donald Trump and others have complained about this.
The masks donation illustrates right at home how pitches in to help nations face health crises.