Together We Can Get to Zero

By February 11, 2015Global Health

While the fight against Ebola is yet to be won, Americans should be proud of the role we have played in the progress made to date.

We live in a complex, globally interconnected world, where ideas and viruses can spread almost instantaneously. The world has seen devastating health crises in the past, such as the 1918 flu epidemic, but today it is much easier for viruses to spread globally today. We need 21st century solutions to combat 21st century challenges. The Ebola epidemic that spread across nine countries on three continents is certainly one of those challenges.

Last week, I proudly joined President Obama at The White House for a series of meetings on Ebola to discuss the global response efforts. While many have justly criticized the Ebola response as too slow off the mark, once the crisis was declared, the world joined together in a significant, impressive international coalition. The U.S. and United Nations Global Ebola Response Coalition mobilized as one community of actors committed to working with the affected countries to end the outbreak. As part of the global response, Americans should be proud of how government officials, armed services and civil servants helped “bend the curve” on this terrible disease.

Surrounded by members of the military, and public servants from other government agencies who are performing invaluable services for our country, President Obama highlighted the incredible efforts of those who contributed to the global Ebola response. The group included CDC lab technicians, members of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Disaster Assistance Response Team (who are first responders in natural disasters and humanitarian crises), doctors and nurses from the U.S. Public Health Service, and the State Department’s medical coordinator.

Complementing the U.S. government’s efforts was an impressive contribution by a catalytic coalition of private sector partners. More than 30 U.S. non-profit organizations have sent 10,000 people to work on the ground. Philanthropists, including Paul Allen, Larry and Lucy Page, and Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg, who had never before focused on global health, were moved to give. Silicon Valley-based companies like Google and Facebook made unique contributions to raising awareness and funds through their online platforms. And U.S. companies, including UPS and General Electric, contributed their knowledge and expertise on the complex logistics and health equipment needed to fight this epidemic.

While we should be proud of this impressive joint effort to help solve this unique 21st century problem, Ebola is not behind us. Cases have significantly decreased in recent months, but the number of current Ebola cases still rivals the largest previous Ebola outbreak. So, while we should celebrate the progress that has been made, and thank those whose personal sacrifices got us here, we need to double-down on our commitment to get Ebola cases to zero. Specifically, in the recent Overview of Needs and Requirements report, UNMEER is calling for $1 billion in funding to identify and treat people affected by Ebola to ensure a rapid end to the outbreak.

Together we must mobilize these resources and continue to drive U.S. engagement in the response. In the 21st century, Ebola anywhere has the potential to be Ebola everywhere.

Originally posted by Gabrielle Fitzgerald on UN Foundation Blog