The Ebola epidemic in West Africa continues to galvanize global attention and resources as the international community strives to eliminate active cases and help the affected countries recover. African leaders and African Union officials have shown extraordinary leadership in addressing the outbreak. The epidemic highlighted the urgent need to establish global capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to biological threats – to prevent future outbreaks from becoming epidemics. Beginning with the release of the National Strategy for Countering Biological Threats in 2009, and outlined in his 2011 speech at the United Nations General Assembly, President Obama has called upon all countries to come together to prevent, detect, and respond to infectious disease threats, whether naturally occurring, accidental or deliberately spread. Today, the President underscored the unwavering U.S. commitment to partnering with Africans, their governments, and all who will join the effort to improve health security across the continent and for all people.
Strong U.S. Commitment
The United States has made a commitment to assist at least 30 countries over five years to achieve the targets of the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA). The U.S. Government is now announcing its intent to invest more than $1 billion in resources to expand the Global Health Security Agenda to prevent, detect, and respond to future infectious disease outbreaks in 17 countries, and will continue to work in others around the world to extend this effort. More than half of this significant investment will be focused on Africa to:
- Prevent or mitigate the impact of naturally-occurring outbreaks and intentional or accidental releases of dangerous pathogens;
- Rapidly detect and transparently report outbreaks when they occur; and
- Employ an interconnected global network that can respond rapidly and effectively.
The 17 partner countries include Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tanzania and Uganda, as well as Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Vietnam.
In each of these countries, the host governments are partnering with the United States to establish a five-year country roadmap to achieve and sustain each of the targets of the GHSA. These roadmaps are intended to enable a better understanding across sectors and assistance providers of the specific milestones, next steps, and gaps toward achieving capacity needed to prevent, detect, and respond to biological threats.
During the 2015 G-7 Summit in Germany, G-7 leaders matched this approach with an historic commitment to collectively assist at least 60 countries, including the countries of West Africa, over the next five years.
As announced during the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit and to further advance the GHSA, the United States is partnering with the African Union Commission to support the establishment of an African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which will build on our longstanding commitment for a growing and diversifying health and science sector in Africa. The United States is also supporting the development of National Public Health Institutes in several African countries including Ethiopia and Kenya. For example, the Ethiopian National Public Health Training Center, in the final stages of construction, will serve as the training and support hub for Ethiopia’s national public health surveillance, research, and laboratory networks.
During the President’s visit, the United States and Kenya also signed a Cooperative Threat Reduction agreement to further advance the GHSA through joint efforts to enhance biological safety and security, real-time biosurveillance, rapid disease reporting, research, and training related to potential biological threats, whether posed by naturally occurring diseases, deliberate biological attacks, or unintentional release of biological pathogens and toxins.
Preventing Future Outbreaks from Becoming Epidemics
In 2014, together with partners from around the world, we launched the GHSA, a multilateral and multi-sectoral initiative of over 40 countries to enhance global capacities to prevent, detect, and rapidly respond to infectious disease threats to achieve measurable targets. The GHSA Steering Group includes 10 countries, including Kenya, and is chaired in 2015 by Finland. From September 7-9, 2015 the Republic of Korea will host a Ministerial to review implementation of actions taken and commitments made to advance measurable capacity in support of the GHSA. In addition to Kenya, the GHSA Steering Group includes Canada, Chile, Finland, India, Indonesia, Italy, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Republic of Korea, and the United States.
GHSA is intended to accelerate action and spur progress toward implementation of the World Health Organization’s International Health Regulations and other global health security frameworks, such as the World Organization for Animal Health’s Performance of Veterinary Services Pathway. The GHSA also engages the non-governmental sector to include academic and research institutes, think tanks, industry, philanthropy and the private sector.
The GHSA serves to stimulate investment in the needed capacity – infrastructure, equipment, and above all skilled personnel – and empowers countries, international organizations and civil society to work together to achieve focused goals and the following specific targets: Countering antimicrobial resistance; preventing the emergence and spread of zoonotic disease; advancing a whole-of-government national biosafety and biosecurity system in every country; improving immunization; establishing a national laboratory system; strengthening real-time biosurveillance; advancing timely and accurate disease reporting; establishing a trained global health security workforce; establishing emergency operations centers; linking public health, law and multi-sectoral rapid response; and enhancing medical countermeasures and personnel deployment.
For decades, the United States has invested in the health of Africa’s people, helped train its health and science professionals, and partnered with countries in Africa to meet shared challenges. Our commitment to working with global partners through the GHSA is the next step. We will not lose sight of the goal: accelerating progress towards a world safe and secure from infectious disease threats through building our collective capacity to prevent and control outbreaks whenever and wherever they occur.
As the Ebola outbreak in West Africa reached epidemic levels in September 2014, the White House hosted a high level meeting with 44 countries to announce over 100 commitments to strengthen capabilities under the GHSA. For its part, the U.S. government has committed to assist at least 30 countries to achieve the Agenda’s targets and to partner with the global community to advance implementation of the International Health Regulations and the Performance of Veterinary Services Pathway.