Sam Nunn: Fighting Infectious Disease is a Health & Security Imperative, International Action Needed

NTI Co-Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Sam Nunn released this statement on the eve of two important global health meetings in Washington, D.C.  On September 25, NTI co-hosts a nongovernmental conference on the Global Health Security Agenda (GSHA).  On September 26, global health ministers convene at the White House to work on new steps to accelerate progress on global health security.  The meetings take place against the backdrop of the current Ebola crisis.

WASHINGTON, DC, Sept. 25, 2014—"The Ebola outbreak in West Africa serves as a powerful and tragic example of how a regional health crisis can quickly become a global security crisis. Because diseases don’t respect borders, fighting infectious disease today is both a health and security imperative. Urgent action is needed from the international community to address the current crisis.

"The United States’ commitment to deploying military assets and the UN’s work to create an emergency medical mission are important steps—but much more needs to be done.  Without a greater sense of urgency, this disease will reach catastrophic proportions in the region and around the world. Earlier this week, the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicted a dramatic surge in the number of victims in coming months, absent a significant increase in the global response to the outbreak.

"The nations currently experiencing this crisis cannot handle it without significant technical, logistical and financial resources from other governments, international health and security organizations and charities. This must be a sustained international effort.

"Steps taken now will strengthen the world’s ability to prevent, detect and respond to future outbreaks, whether naturally occurring or intentional. At NTI, our experience helping to create global and regional health networks, such as Connecting Organizations for Regional Disease Surveillance (CORDS), has reinforced for us the impact of effective cooperation. We must be able to detect outbreaks through accurate diagnostics that can quickly confirm what an illness is and what it is not. We need early warning and surveillance systems in place and robust risk communication plans so that people know how to prevent and respond to disease without panic.

"Given the stakes and warnings from global health authorities that Ebola could become endemic to West Africa if it continues to spread, heads of state should come together – just as they have to address the security of vulnerable nuclear materials around the world – to work urgently to address this crisis and to build global capacity to manage inevitable health threats in the future.

"Cooperation is essential among nations and also between national and local governments, between the public and private sectors, and among those on the front lines fighting the disease.

"The world is working hard to respond to the Ebola outbreak—but everyone must work harder, and we must not rest until we have better systems in place, for this crisis and the future crises that are inevitable."

CONTACT: Cathy Gwin
202-454-7706 (office), [email protected]
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