Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Dr Priscilla Chan, are donating $25m to the fight against the worst-ever Ebola outbreak in west Africa.
The money will go to the CDC Foundation, a private, non-profit organization securing donations to help the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) fight the epidemic in west Africa, which has claimed more than 4,000 lives.
“We need to get Ebola under control in the near term so that it doesn’t spread further and become a long-term global health crisis that we end up fighting for decades at large scale, like HIV or polio,” Zuckerberg said in a post on Facebook. “We believe our grant is the quickest way to empower the CDC and the experts in this field to prevent this outcome.”
Zuckerberg’s donation more than doubled the contributions toward the Ebola response received by the foundation. Claire Greenwell, a spokeswoman for the foundation, said it has so far received approximately $40m in commitments and donations to help combat the crisis in west Africa. She said the donations will provide critical resources and services needed to improve the situation on the ground in west Africa.
The CDC has mobilized hundreds of staff in response to the crisis, that World Health Organization (WHO) director general, Dr Margaret Chan, said on Monday is “unquestionably the most severe acute public health emergency in modern times”.
The agency has more than 100 disease detectives on the ground in the most affected countries – Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. It also sent a team to Texas, where officials are now helping the hospital treat a nurse who contracted Ebola while caring for America’s patient zero.
The foundation’s website said donations to its global fund will be used to buy protective gear for healthcare workers, equip emergency treatment centers in west Africa and launch educational health campaigns in the region.
The donation comes as American lawmakers bicker over who is at fault for a sluggish US response to the outbreak. A new ad by Democrats says Republican-driven budget cuts to the CDC crippled the nation’s ability to respond to the worsening crisis. The advertisement is in response to Republicans claims that President Barack Obama isn’t doing enough to combat Ebola, especially after Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian man, was diagnosed with the disease in a Dallas hospital. Duncan died on Wednesday.
The US has led the global response effort, pledging aid, money and even military personnel. But health officials across the world are calling on the international community to step up the pace before the outbreak spirals too far out of control.
“The sooner the world comes together to help west Africa, the safer we all will be,” CDC director Tom Frieden said last month. “We know how to stop this outbreak. There is a window of opportunity to tamp this down – the challenge is to scale up the massive response needed to stop this outbreak.”