Welcome to the Ebola Innovation Summit. Thank you for joining us today and thank you to the Skoll Global Threats Fund and USAID for your support.
It’s been more than a year since we have all worked together to tackle this latest outbreak of Ebola. Ebola has continued to be an unpredictable and devastating opponent. Despite tremendous progress, there remain persistent gaps that must be closed if we are to reach zero cases of Ebola and stay there.
Today is our opportunity to share the lessons learned from the past and come together, not just to respond to this outbreak, but to prepare for future ones. To overcome this 21st century challenge, we need 21st century solutions.
I’ve been interested in solving how Ebola is transmitted since 2009 when I first funded research to better understand this vicious disease.
When I saw early data around the Ebola outbreak in West Africa last year, I knew we were potentially facing a global health crisis unlike anything we had ever seen. I felt compelled to act and try to swiftly address some of the most critical needs in our response.
Working closely with USAID we saw five needs early in the outbreak:
Establishing Emergency Management Systems;
Developing containment units to Medevac multiple contagious individuals;
Funding rapid diagnostic tests;
Evaluating how technology could help the capture of contact tracing; and
Support the ground teams in charge of changing behavior, such as handling of those infected and changing burial practices.
While progress has been made in these key areas and others, there are still many challenges to overcome.
We have gone from more than 2,129 confirmed cases per week at the height of the outbreak, to only 37 confirmed cases as of April 12th which is amazing. While the numbers are trending dramatically downward, this still represents the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history.
As we all know, it’s not over yet. While it’s no longer in the daily news, we are all here because we need to stay committed and remain vigilant now and on the watch for future epidemics. Zero cases of Ebola is a real possibility if we continue to stay focused.
We know even when a community reaches zero cases, half of the communities stricken by Ebola will probably see another outbreak within a few years.
How can we change that trajectory? If we knew a year ago what we know now, what would we do differently?
And, what can we do to STAY at zero cases and prepare for the next outbreak—whether it’s Ebola or even another pandemic?
I challenge all of us to ask: What are the best next steps to prepare?
This outbreak exposed significant gaps in the way the world responds to crises – from data collection and coordinated systems, to diagnostics, to emergency infrastructure and logistics, and social mobilization.
Today, we are here to develop new ways to fill those gaps, and just as importantly, provide the funding and resources to make those ideas a reality. I believe that by applying new solutions and better information we will improve the management of future outbreaks.
All of us in this room understand that Ebola is not somebody else’s problem. It is our problem. Let’s define a collective vision and ways to create a better future. Because what we do today, will save lives tomorrow.
So, let’s get started. I’m looking forward to a productive day.
Thank you very much.