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By Gayle Smith
We have consistently said that Ebola is an urgent global challenge requiring an urgent and commensurate global response. Earlier on November 15, leaders of the G20 — a collection of the world’s largest economies from their ongoing summit in Brisbane, Australia. They committed to continued and intensified action to end the Ebola epidemic in West Africa and pledged to assist others to achieve needed health security capacity to prevent, detect and rapidly respond to future outbreaks before they become epidemics.
The communique commends the extraordinary international commitments and cooperation toward the Ebola response to-date, while urging countries around the globe — as well as international organizations and the private sector — to do their part. The statement also goes one step farther to achieve global implementation of the World Health Organization International Health Regulations, which over 40 countries and 17 G20 members have now pledged to accelerate through the Global Health Security Agenda.
Specifically, among other steps, G20 leaders pledged to:
• Expedite the provision of funds and other forms of assistance to the affected countries, including personnel, medical teams and personnel, medical and protective equipment, and medicines and treatments;
• Share their experiences fighting the epidemic to ensure healthcare workers and other responders encounter the safest conditions possible;
• Urge greater efforts on the part of researchers, regulators, and pharmaceutical companies to develop safe, effective, and affordable diagnostics, vaccines, and treatments;
• Call upon international and regional institutions — as well as civil society and the private sector — to devise ways to mitigate the impacts of the epidemic and facilitate an economic recovery for the affected countries;
• Encourage the World Bank Group and International Monetary Fund to continue their strong support for the affected countries, including through concessional loans, debt relief, and grants;
• Build capacity to prevent, detect, report early and rapidly respond to infectious diseases such as Ebola so that future outbreaks of infectious diseases can be stanched before they develop into epidemics; and,
Set a date by next May for those members that wish to accelerate action to announce a timeline for establishing the needed capacity across the Economic Community of West African States and other vulnerable regions to combat future infectious disease threats.
All told, the international community has already committed more than $1.5 billion to fight the epidemic, while officials from countries large and small have worked on the ground hand-in-hand, together with authorities from the affected countries and humanitarian responders, to beat back this disease. But, today’s communique signals a commitment on the part of the world’s largest and most powerful countries to see this challenge through and to recognize infectious outbreaks for what they are: global threats. The United States will be there until the Ebola epidemic is contained and the affected countries are back on their feet. And on November 15, many of our closest allies and partners pledged to be right there with us.
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