U.S. Ambassador Provides Insight into Growing Mental Health Crisis Facing U.S. Diplomats in Difficult Positions Overseas During the Covid-19 Pandemic as the State Department Strives to Inoculate a workforce of tens of thousands of people scattered around the world with limited doses of vaccine.
The February 15 cable, written by US Ambassador to Kosovo Philip S. Kosnett and obtained by NBC News, details the burnout, isolation and mental health issues of those serving in one of the worst countries. poorest in Europe. It also provides insight into the biggest challenges facing many State Department employees overseas.
The agency-wide message included a call for Washington to do more to help a “community close to breaking point after 11 months immune to a pandemic that has ravaged this sub-country. developed of the Balkans ”. The memo was first reported by Politico.
“Persistent anxiety – for some in the community, fear – punctuates a life of isolation, separation and waning hope. Post leadership can and should do more locally to address morale issues, ”Kosnett said. “Until the Department is able to deliver vaccines to posts like Pristina, the impact of the pandemic on health, well-being and productivity will remain profound.”
The U.S. diplomatic agency received just 23 percent of the doses needed to immunize its entire workforce, including family members, interagency partners, contractors and local staff, a spokesperson said. State Department spoke to NBC News.
“If the Department continues to receive only partial allocations, we will make data-driven decisions while taking into account complex logistical considerations,” the State Department spokesperson said, citing factors such as load morbidity, the number of positive cases and the quality of health care in any given location.
The limited supply of vaccines has made some diplomats feel the agency has prioritized their domestic workers over those serving overseas. According to the State Department spokesperson, however, nearly 80% of the vaccines received so far had been directed to positions in the field.
Pristina, the capital where Kosnett is based, suffers from a weak medical care system, dangerous pollution levels and a notoriously unreliable internet, he said.
“Everyone came to Pristina knowing it was a tough job, but no one expected it to be a tour of isolation and separation from friends and family,” Kosnett wrote. “Recognizing that the pandemic has affected people around the world does not reduce the psychological impact at the local level.”
Overworked, understaffed and faced with conditions that make employees feel unsafe to leave their homes for basic necessities like groceries, the cable describes how some Americans in the US mission in Kosovo view the current situation as simply unsustainable. One person described their experience over the past year as being on the water and wondering when the lifeboats would come.
While Kosnett expressed gratitude for the “State Department’s commitment to transparency as it makes difficult choices about how to prioritize scarce resources,” he stressed the importance of looking beyond the numbers.
“This is a human tragedy the scope of which cannot be fully appreciated without considering the holistic effect on our lives,” he wrote of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on his own staff. “It’s not just a binary series of questions: infected or not; hospitalized or not; dead or not. A qualitative perspective of the pandemic is essential.”