The United States Peace Corps has suspended activities and is evacuating all volunteers in reaction to the novel coronavirus pandemic. In an open letter to volunteers, Peace Corps Director Jody Olsen said the organization came to the “difficult decision” as more and more volunteers required evacuation. The move follows the evacuation of volunteers stationed in China and Mongolia earlier this month.
“As COVID-19 continues to spread and international travel becomes more and more challenging by the day, we are acting now to safeguard your well-being and prevent a situation where Volunteers are unable to leave their host countries,” Olsen’s letter explained.
Olsen assured host countries and communities that they are not closing posts and that Peace Corps operations will resume when “conditions permit.”
“I also want to assure you and our host country partners that these evacuations represent the temporary suspension of Volunteer activities,” she added.
Evacuations may be easier said than done as many countries, including the entire European Union, have closed their borders. Within the MENA region, the Peace Corps operates in Morocco and Jordan. The two countries suspended all international flights on Monday, March 16 and Tuesday, March 17, respectively.
The Peace Corps also operates in Tunisia, which has only banned flights from Italy. Tunisian Prime Minister Elyes Fakhfakh is scheduled to update the country’s COVID-19 measures imminently and may decide to follow his regional counterparts in suspending all international flights.
The United States also raised its global travel advisory on March 15 to “Global Level 3 Health Advisory – Reconsider Travel.”
The US State Department is advising citizens “to reconsider travel abroad due to the global impact of COVID-19” as “many areas throughout the world are now experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks and taking action that may limit traveler mobility.”
The Peace Corps was founded in the 1960s and currently operates in 60 countries worldwide. The organization aims to address local challenges and promote understanding and friendship.