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Building a Global Defense Against Infectious Diseases

(FILE) A Ugandan health worker prepares to administer the ebola vaccine.

“In an increasingly globalized world, these pathogens can quickly spread across communities, countries, and continents,” said USAID Administrator Power.

Building a Global Defense Against Infectious Diseases
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One of the chief downsides of an increasingly connected world is the ability of pathogens to migrate across the globe at the speed of a passenger airplane. Speaking at the Center for Global Development in Washington in late April, USAID Administrator Samantha Power said that “The risk factors that help new pathogens emerge and spread quickly have grown – and they are still growing.”

“As humans destroy forests and other habitats to feed and house a growing population, and as conflict and climate disasters like wildfires and prolonged droughts push animals and humans out of their existing homes, wildlife and people are coming into closer contact with one another – making it easier, as we all know, for diseases to jump from animals to humans,” she said. “And in an increasingly globalized world, these pathogens can quickly spread across communities, countries, and continents.”

Indeed, recent experiences with the spread of infectious diseases, including the COVID-19 pandemic, multi-country cholera, and the Uganda Ebola outbreak, clearly indicate when it comes to response to global health emergencies, there is an urgent need for standardized and centralized operational processes.

That is why USAID introduced the Global Health Emergency Management System, a new initiative that will “help us tackle multiple crises quickly, at one time,” said Administrator Power. “USAID’s long history of marshaling rapid and effective responses to humanitarian crises has taught us that success in an emergency relies on just that. Relies on having a system in place to rapidly deploy surge funding and staff, and to coordinate a response across relevant bureaus at USAID and across our large U.S. government. The new global health emergency response system is going to help us do that.”

The Global Health Emergency Management System will enable USAID to support overseas personnel with swift identification of health funding. It will also allow for rapid deployment of staff to augment country and regional capacity and coordinate the implementation of leadership decisions across USAID. Finally, it will strengthen engagement with interagency partners.

“We have to build the world’s capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to all infectious disease outbreaks – whether they’re caused by new COVID variants, existing threats, or emerging pathogens,” said Administrator Power.

“Disease outbreaks are urgent national security risks, and governments around the world need to treat them that way – building up our collective defenses, again, against biological threats.”