With the death toll in West Africa rising to over 4,900 and new cases sprouting up daily, the World Health Organization estimates that it needs a billion dollars to train personnel, set up the required health facilities and obtain the necessary medical supplies to completely eradicate the deadly virus that has kept the world on edge for the last several months.
On October 23rd, US billionaire Paul Allen made the first significant dent to their request by announcing that his foundation would pledge $100 USD million towards fighting Ebola. When making the announcement, Mr. Allen said "Ebola virus is unlike any health crisis we have ever experienced and needs a response unlike anything we have ever seen." He went on to explain that “To effectively contain this outbreak and prevent it from becoming a global epidemic, we must pool our efforts to raise the funds, coordinate the resources and develop the creative solutions needed to combat this problem. I am committed to doing my part in tackling this crisis.”
Mr. Allen's foundation that has previously donated $26 million to the Red Cross for the same cause, plans to distribute the money very strategically and systematically.
In addition to helping provide the necessary medical supplies, $7.5 million USD will be donated to the University of Massachusetts Medical School to train personnel. One of the biggest issues facing Ebola patients in West Africa is the lack of trained doctors and nurses. According to Liberia's ambassador, the country currently has only 50 doctors tending to the hundreds that are suffering from the disease. Mr. Allen hopes that the funds will help the University recruit and train additional doctors and other infectious disease specialists, so that the numerous West African hospitals that have been shut down due to the lack of staff, can be reopened.
But given that no amount of training can completely alleviate the risk of the disease, the foundation also plans to donate a portion of the funds to the US State Department to build two "safety cocoons". This will ensure that the US medical personnel brave enough to help Ebola patients in West Africa, can be airlifted out immediately, should they get infected with the virus. Currently, the US only has one aircraft that can safely evacuate Ebola patients. Some of the funds will also be used to train journalists covering the disease so that they report the news accurately, without any hype or sensationalism.
Mr. Allen is not the only one donating to this cause. On September 10th, Microsoft's other co-founder, Bill Gates, pledged $50 million USD through his foundation, while on October 14th, Facebook's founder Mark Zuckerberg, added $25 million USD to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Foundation coffers to help buy personal protective equipment, ready-to-eat meals, generators, vehicles and motorcycles, and thermal scanners to detect fever. These donations are in addition to the US government spending $700 million and sending troops, supplies and expertise, as well as other generous contributions from nations and individuals across the world.
In addition to attempting to prevent the spread of the disease, the World Health Organization is also working with scientists to come up with an effective vaccine. According to the officials, millions of doses of two experimental Ebola vaccines could be ready for use by early 2015. There are also five others that are currently under development and expected to be ready for testing by March 2015. With the world uniting to eradicate this deadly disease, Ebola is destined to be distant memory soon.
Resources: Nbcnews.com, theguardian.com