The United States is approaching the most recent Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) as both a national and global security priority. Since the outbreak first erupted in 2018, the United States has supported the efforts of the World Health Organization and the DRC government to end it. Success will depend on a coordinated response and increased financial assistance from the international community.
“An infectious disease threat anywhere can be an infectious disease threat everywhere,” said Marcia Bernicat of the State Department’s Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs to a U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on July 24. The U.S. is “firmly committed to stopping Ebola’s transmission, supporting the treatment of those infected, and minimizing the loss of life in this outbreak.”
The U.S. is the largest single-country donor to the Ebola response efforts. The U.S. Agency for International Development on July 24 announced it is providing more than $38 million in additional assistance to help end the ongoing Ebola outbreak, including $15 million in new funding to the World Health Organization, bringing total funding through USAID to $136 million. The U.S. government is also supporting Ebola preparedness efforts in unaffected areas in the DRC, as well as in at-risk neighboring countries — Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan and Uganda — to strengthen border screening capacity and improve infection prevention and control practices, among other activities.
As of July 28, 1,782 people have died as a result of what is the second-largest outbreak on record; confirmed and probable cases stood at 2,659.
The United States deployed a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) — comprising disaster and health experts from USAID and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — in September 2018 to coordinate the U.S. response and help end the outbreak as soon as possible. This team, as well as staff from the State Department and other government agencies, is working to prevent and control Ebola infections, train workers and promote safe and dignified burials for victims of the disease. The U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa also remains fully engaged in supporting the entire U.S. government response in the DRC.
On July 17, the WHO declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, citing a recent Ebola case in Goma, ongoing violence targeting health workers and the outbreak’s long duration.
The WHO in mid-July called on partners to provide $287 million in assistance for the next six months. The U.S. works actively with other donors such as the U.K., EU and World Bank in an effort to ensure the Ebola response is adequately funded. The World Bank announced in late July it will mobilize $300 million in grants and credits.
Still, more is needed to contain the disease and prevent its spread within the region.
“The Ebola outbreak requires we redouble our efforts,” State Department Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Tibor Nagy told the Senate subcommittee on July 24. “Few countries are prepared to handle a challenge like Ebola alone, so we call on all our partners to join these efforts.”