By Ishola Balogun
The U.S. Mission in Nigeria has repatriated 997 Americans. The move was to reunite them with their families and friends during this time of unprecedented challenge posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
From April 6-8, three U.S. Consulate-organized chartered flights operated by Delta Air Lines and Ethiopian Airlines repatriated 850 American citizens from the Murtala Mohammed International Airport Lagos to the United States. This is in addition to the 147 U.S. citizens who departed Abuja on April 4.
According to a statement by the Public Affairs Department of the U.S. Embassy, “these repatriation flights were made possible by a tremendous effort by the U.S. Consulate team and great cooperation from Nigerian partners, including the Ministry of Aviation, Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria, the Nigeria Immigration Service, and the Lagos State Government.
“The State Department’s effort to bring Americans home during the COVID-19 pandemic has required a remarkable diplomatic and logistical effort. As of April 8, 2020, the Department of State has coordinated the repatriation of 50,339 Americans from 94 countries since January 29, 2020.
“United States Consul General Claire Pierangelo noted that in times of emergency, the United States Department of State has no greater priority than the safety and security of U.S. citizens overseas.
“This has been three weeks in the making. We had more than 50 people working on this on a daily basis to make sure that we can find the Americans, get the planes, secure flight clearances for the planes to land here and also ensure safe passage of the Americans traveling to the airport since the city is on lockdown. It was an enormous effort and I am incredibly proud of my team. We appreciate all the help from our Nigerian partners. We couldn’t have done this without them,” Consul General Pierangelo said.
She noted that U.S. Mission remains committed to working closely with the Government of Nigeria and the various health authorities to keep everyone healthy and safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The U.S. government has pledged more than $7 million in health and humanitarian funding to Nigeria in response to the pandemic that will go toward risk communication, water and sanitation activities, infection prevention, and coordination. This assistance joins more than $5.2 billion in health assistance and more than $8.1 billion in total assistance for Nigeria over the past 20 years.
The United States is providing nearly $274 million to help dozens of countries to combat the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), furthering America’s commitment to humanitarian assistance and global health.
The U.S. goverment advised its citizens who remain in Nigeria seeking COVID-19 information to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program at step.state.gov and check the U.S. Mission Nigeria website and social media handles for messages and updates.