Peace Corps Makes a Big Move Amid Pandemic

US government's volunteer program suspending operations, evacuating volunteers
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 16, 2020 11:29 AM CDT
Peace Corps Suspending Operations
Peace Corps volunteers cheer as then-President Obama speaks at a departure ceremony at the airport in Accra, Ghana, on July 11, 2009.   (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)

The coronavirus pandemic is shutting down the Peace Corps, at least temporarily. The US government-run volunteer program, which sends people around the world to work side by side with local leaders on needs in the area, is suspending operations and evacuating volunteers. "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," director Jody K. Olsen said in a letter to volunteers cited by CNN. "It is against this backdrop that I have made the difficult decision to temporarily suspend all Peace Corps operations globally."

Volunteers have already been evacuated from China and Mongolia, and evacuations are now underway in several other areas. "Unfortunately, it has become clear in the last 48 hours that numerous posts must follow suit," the letter says, explaining that ultimately the decision was made to pull all volunteers. But, "importantly, our host country staff will remain in their current positions," the letter says. "They play a critical role in every element of the Peace Corps mission, especially in a time of crisis." And the situation is temporary, it promises, with posts remaining open and planning to resume normal operations as soon as it is safe. In addition, "Headquarters remains open under its own Continuity of Operations Plan, and agency personnel are working 24/7 to support you and our staff overseas." (Read more coronavirus stories.)

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