“In West Africa, this remains the worst Ebola epidemic in history by a long shot.

Every hot-spot is an ember that, if not contained, could become a new fire.

So we cannot let down our guard, even for a minute.

And we can’t just fight this epidemic; we have to extinguish it.”

                                     –       President Obama, December 2, 2014

All across the world, diplomats, scientists, doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, logistics experts, soldiers, and countless other men and women are working to stop the spread of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.  The response in the Asia-Pacific region, where our partners have valuable experience and lessons to share from having addressed the challenges of infectious diseases such as SARS and H5N1, is no different.  In fact, over the past few months, the response from the Asia-Pacific region to one of the most brutal epidemics the world has seen has been robust and generous. So much so that I’d like to share some highlights.

In November, Japan announced that they would contribute an additional $100 million to the international Ebola response, on top of earlier commitments of $45 million and a range of in-kind donations such as emergency vehicles, medical equipment, and emergency relief goods, including tents and blankets.  Japanese medical experts have also participated in World Health Organization (WHO) missions in Sierra Leone and Liberia.  On December 9, Japan extended additional emergency grant aid of approximately $8.5 million to the WHO and the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) in connection with Japan’s donation of 700,000 sets of personal protective equipment (PPE) and for infection prevention and control.

Later, in mid-December, the Republic of Korea deployed the first of three 10-person specialized medical teams to Sierra Leone to help with much needed prevention and treatment efforts.  They also pledged $5 million in assistance, in addition to the $5.6 million they contributed earlier this year. 

Australia has made important contributions, donating $36 million to the Ebola response, including funds to staff and run a 100-bed Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU) in Sierra Leone and training to enhance regional preparedness in the event of an outbreak in the Asia-Pacific region.

China is a leading contributor to the global Ebola response in the Asia-Pacific, having donated more than $122 million so far in financial and in-kind assistance, including a 100-bed Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU) in Liberia, a mobile laboratory in Sierra Leone, 60 ambulances, 100 motorcycles, tens of thousands of medical kits and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and more than 700 medical personnel including those who are training tens of thousands of African health care workers. 

One of Asia-Pacific’s smallest and newest countries, Timor-Leste, has also made significant contributions to the global effort to end this devastating outbreak, with financial contributions totaling $2 million, and a commitment to fund 25 doctors from Cuba and 15 doctors from Timor-Leste to work to fight the spread of the virus in Guinea Bissau.  

New Zealand has financially supported New Zealand Red Cross delegates in Sierra Leone and Liberia, and 24 clinical staff from New Zealand will work alongside Australian and Sierra Leonean medical personnel in an Australian-run ETU in Freetown.  New Zealand also contributed approximately $1.56 million to administer the unit.  Additional financial contributions from New Zealand to the WHO response in West Africa and the UN Ebola Response Multi-Partner Trust Fund totaling $1.59 million will help ensure a coherent UN system response.

Thailand has sent $150,000 worth of rice to ensure food security in West Africa, and recently hosted an ASEAN +3 ministerial in Bangkok to address ways the region can work at a national, regional, and global level to respond to and prepare for Ebola outbreaks.

Malaysia, in turn, sent over 20 million gloves to West Africa to help protect the courageous healthcare workers fighting on the front lines of this response, and has just announced that it will make an in-kind donation worth approximately $864,000 to Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia through the Malaysian Medical Relief Society.

Finally, Taiwan has made noteworthy contributions in the global fight against Ebola.  Working closely with the United States, Taiwan has donated 100,000 units of PPE to the three most heavily-affected countries in West Africa. In early December, Taiwan also contributed $1 million in financial assistance to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Foundation to help meet the most urgent needs in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. On December 5, Taiwan announced its plans to establish a training center to help equip health care workers in the Asia Pacific region with the tools needed to contain an outbreak of Ebola or other dangerous infectious diseases within or beyond their borders.

Other partners in Asia-Pacific are contributing to the Ebola response by preventing the spread of the virus through preparedness efforts within their borders and their region.  Such efforts will contribute to preparedness for all infectious disease threats, which is a key tenet of the multinational Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) launched on February 13, 2014 to elevate global health security as a national leaders-level priority.  In one of the first two pilot projects under GHSA, in fact, the CDC worked with Vietnam to enhance their newly created Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in Hanoi.  Building EOCs and sharing surveillance information across borders will help protect the region from future outbreaks of Ebola, avian influenza, and other diseases.

As Ambassador Power said, although the international efforts made to date are significant and are beginning to have an impact, a larger and more sustainable global response is urgently needed to save even more lives and stop the ravaging spread of this outbreak.  Only with the support of a global coalition of countries, non-profits, international institutions and the private sector, along with indispensable help from individual citizens, will we be able to fulfill this goal and contain and end this epidemic. And we must continue to stand at West Africa’s side in the months and years to come, helping the region to recover from the devastating social, economic, and psychological impacts of the outbreak.

About the Author: Andy Weber serves as Deputy Coordinator for the Ebola Coordination Unit at the U.S. Department of State. Follow @andyweberNCB on Twitter.

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