Foundations, Governments Step Up Support for Ebola Response

Foundations, Governments Step Up Support for Ebola Response

The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation has announced commitments totaling $6.6 million to address logistical and transport needs as part of a comprehensive relief campaign to combat the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

The funding includes a $3.6 million matching grant to the U.S. Fund for UNICEF that will enable UNICEF, in coordination with UPS, to airlift fifty thousand protection kits into Liberia to help prevent the spread of the virus among caretakers and family members and provide nearly twenty-four hundred community health volunteers with the resources to educate their communities about preventing infection. In addition, a $3 million partnership with Airlink, a disaster and humanitarian response organization that links nonprofits with air and cargo transport, will support regular air deliveries of medical protective gear and pharmaceuticals to the region over the next three months. With the latest commitments, the Allen Foundation has committed more than $20 million to fighting the disease, including $9 million to the CDC Foundation and $2.8 million to the American Red Cross. Further announcements of assistance from the foundation are expected later this week.

"The Ebola outbreak requires dedicated and creative solutions to prevent its further spread across Africa and the world," said Paul Allen. "We can tackle Ebola, but it will require an accelerated and coordinated global effort. Time is of the essence in this battle."

Elsewhere, the Open Society Foundations has awarded $4 million to a project led by Partners in Health co-founder Paul Farmer to open a treatment facility in rural Liberia that aims to boost survival rates and prevent the spread of the virus, the Boston Globe and Forbes report. Historically, the fatality rate from Ebola has been 90 percent or so, but in this outbreak it is closer to 50 percent. In partnership with two local organizations, Last Mile Health in Grand Gedeh, Liberia, and the Wellbody Alliance in Kono, Sierra Leone, Farmer's project will deploy teams of community health workers who can help identify illness, bring patients in for treatment, and track those who may have been exposed. If the test facility is successful in the short term, the decentralized model will be scaled and will serve as a blueprint for strengthening the public healthcare system in the region.

"This model will really reach people, de-stigmatize the disease, and get people the care they need at any earlier time point," Joia Mukherjee, chief medical officer of Partners in Health, told the Boston Globe. "We're hoping to get somewhat ahead of the epidemic in those areas."

While foundations in the U.S. — as well as others such as the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, which donated $500,000 to Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders last week — have been stepping up their support of efforts to contain the outbreak, some worry that it is not nearly enough, the Wall Street Journal reports. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs' Financial Tracking Service, documented contributions from foundations and donor countries totaled $326.7 million as of Monday — far short of the minimum $600 million the UN estimates will be needed to stop the spread of the virus — and only $26 million was committed before July 31, even though the outbreak had already been declared the worst in history. Indeed, the majority of the funds, some $200 million, was not pledged until early September. On Tuesday, President Barack Obama unveiled a response plan that includes $263 million in government funding (including $175 million committed to date) to send additional Centers for Disease Control and Prevention workers to affected areas, support the development of Ebola vaccines and therapies, and deploy three thousand military personnel to the region. In addition, the World Bank Group has announced grants totaling $105 million — including $52 million for response efforts in Liberia, the country with the highest number of Ebola infections; $28 million for Sierra Leone; and $25 million for Guinea — as part of the $200 million commitment it announced in early August.

Michael VanRooyen, director of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, told the Journal that donors made a mistake in not heeding groups like Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders who were warning that this Ebola outbreak was different. "The rule that was broken was listening to the ground," said VanRooyen. "If they say 'Hello, this is different,' you should pay attention to them."