The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation has announced a $5 million commitment in support of efforts to contain the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. In addition, the CDC Foundation has announced a $1 million donation from healthcare services provider Hospital Corporation of America to provide urgently needed supplies and equipment for emergency responders working in the region.
The grants from Hewlett will support organizations working on a variety of high-priority public health initiatives, including the operation of Ebola treatment centers, community-based outreach, and the use of mass media to disseminate messages to help slow the spread of the lethal virus. Grant recipients include the CDC Foundation, the United Nations Foundation, Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team, the International Medical Corps, Population Services International, the GlobalGiving Foundation, and Capital for Good.
"The way this outbreak is spreading is unprecedented," said Hewlett Foundation President Larry Kramer. "How quickly it can be contained is likely to affect all social and economic development in the region for years to come....As in all humanitarian relief efforts, fast and flexible philanthropic dollars can help meet urgent needs and help pave the way so that the larger resources made available by governments can have greater impact."
The gift to the CDC Foundation from HCA will be used to much-needed supplies and equipment, including personal protective equipment, infection control tools, ready-to-eat meals, generators, vehicles, and screening tools such as thermal scanners to detect fever. The gift also will be used to hire local staff to step up emergency response efforts in the region. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention itself has been working to ramp up its Ebola response efforts since July, providing logistics, staffing, communication, analytics, management, and other support functions, and today has more than a hundred staff members on the ground in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone.
According to the World Health Organization's latest update (10 pages, PDF), the number of confirmed and suspected cases of Ebola in the region had reached 6,263 as of September 21, including 2,917 people who have died from the disease. More than half the total infections and deaths have occurred in Liberia, which reported 1,707 new cases over the past twenty-one days — and where, despite efforts to open new treatment units, there remains a significant shortage of beds for patients. The CDC has estimated that without additional interventions and changes in community behavior, the total number of cases of Ebola in Liberia and Sierra Leone could soar as high as 1.4 million by January, although the agency is quick to note that that is a worst-case estimate.
"Ebola continues to spread rapidly in West Africa, and CDC and others have made it clear that the window of opportunity to contain the virus is closing quickly," said R. Milton Johnson, president and CEO of HCA, which operates hospitals and surgery centers in twenty states and the United Kingdom. "The time to act is now, and we strongly encourage other companies, particularly those in the healthcare industry, to join us in this important effort to save lives."