US spent $200M to send thousands of ventilators to other countries, GAO reports

The U.S. Agency for International Development spent $200 million to send 8,722 ventilators to other countries last year, a report from the Government Accountability Office found. 

A total of 43 countries received ventilators from the U.S. The U.S. began delivering the devices in May and had delivered almost all of them by the end of September, according to the report. 

Several of the countries given the ventilators had few or no new COVID-19 cases per day, the GAO said. The relationship between the number of ventilators provided and the number of new virus cases also varied widely within the same region.  

For example, El Salvador received 600 ventilators when it had an average of 74 new cases per day, while Honduras received 210 ventilators when it had 161 new cases per day. 

The U.S. Agency for International Development said it isn't aware of where all the ventilators are. It knows how many are in each country, but not where the ventilators were sent within every country, the GAO report states. The agency said it is working on tracking down all of the ventilators. 

The money for the ventilators came from two COVID-19 relief laws enacted in 2020 which appropriated $2.3 billion  for diplomatic and foreign assistance programs, according to the report. The National Security Council and U.S. State Department  were also involved in planning the initiative to export the ventilators. 

Last April, data from Johns Hopkins University and Harvard Medical School suggested the U.S. needed 31 times the number of ventilators it had to treat COVID-19 patients. The University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson made ventilators out of garden hoses to deal with shortages of the medical device. 

By September 2020, the U.S. said it didn't need any more ventilators, as the Strategic National Stockpile was full. 

Find the full report here

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