September 19, 2014

United States Senate pledges support for fight to contain Ebola outbreak and save lives

Unanimously passes bipartisan resolution supporting those affected by humanitarian crisis

United States Senate pledges support for fight to contain Ebola outbreak and save lives

Unanimously passes bipartisan resolution supporting those affected by humanitarian crisis

WASHINGTON – The United States Senate this week recognized the severe threat posed by the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa and offered its support for robust efforts to combat the virus and provide humanitarian relief for those affected. In a resolution adopted unanimously Thursday night, the Senate recognized the support provided by the United States government, African partners, the United Nations, World Health Organization, and the international community to confront Ebola, as well as the additional U.S. commitment recently announced by President Obama.

U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), chair and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs, introduced the resolution with Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Ranking Member Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), and Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).

“The Ebola virus is spreading now at an exponential rate, and the humanitarian crisis gripping West Africa clearly needs a global response,” Senator Coons said. “The United States Senate this week expressed its support with those who have been affected by Ebola and solidarity with those who are doing everything they can to fight it. This is a grave and growing crisis with the potential to spread well beyond West Africa. It cannot be resolved without the strong support and resources of the United States, and I strongly welcome the deepening of our commitment to Ebola response in the critical weeks and months ahead.”

“We need to send a message to the people of West Africa that we will help them combat this deadly epidemic, and to the rest of the world that the U.S. is ready to lead this effort,” Senator Flake said. “I hope passage of this resolution, coming on the heels of the president's announcement earlier this week, will do just that.”

“The world is facing the worst Ebola outbreak in history,” Senator Menendez said. “The disease is ravaging West Africa—claiming thousands of lives, undermining trade and food security, and threatening regional stability.  As the epidemic spirals, we are witnessing a devastating human toll.  By passing this resolution, Senators acted to bring awareness to the terrible impact of this deadly virus and the importance of stopping its spread now, before more lives are lost.  We also approved the nomination of Dr. Tom Frieden, current Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as the U.S. representative on the Executive Board of the World Health Organization, which is leading the international response.  The passage of the Continuing Resolution included an additional $88 million to help U.S. agencies continue to fight this disease. I welcome American leadership this week to dramatically scale up our own response, as outlined by President Obama, as well as intensified efforts announced yesterday by the United Nations to turn the tide through a dedicated emergency health mission. Controlling and preventing Ebola overseas is the most effective way to save lives in Africa and protect Americans at home.”

“The U.S. has a vital role to play in leading the global response to defeat this deadly outbreak that is growing increasingly difficult to contain,” Senator Corker said. “The international intervention needs to be scaled up to meet the scope of this challenge as research for new therapies and vaccines continues.” 

“The United States and the international community must stand together to help those stricken by Ebola in West Africa and to protect against the spread of this deadly virus to our own shores,” Senator Durbin said. “President Obama has wisely mobilized the best of our American expertise and generosity to help, and Congress stands ready to provide additional funding to help stem the tide of this terrible scourge.”

The resolution was cosponsored by Senators Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

The text of the resolution follows:

S.Res.541

Recognizing the severe threat that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa poses to populations, governments, and economies across Africa and, if not properly contained, to regions across the globe, and expressing support for those affected by this epidemic.

Whereas Ebola hemorrhagic fever is an extremely infectious virus that causes severe illness with a fatality rate that can well exceed 50 percent;

Whereas Ebola is spread through contact with blood, secretions, or other bodily fluids of infected humans and animals and can have an incubation period of up to 21 days;

Whereas the Ebola virus first appeared in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1976 and has afflicted communities in Africa at least 20 times since then;

Whereas the current Ebola outbreak first occurred in February 2014 in forested areas of southeastern Guinea and subsequently spread to Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and Senegal, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo recently discovered the outbreak of a separate strain of the virus;

Whereas this is the first outbreak of Ebola in West Africa and the biggest and most complex to date, due to its emergence in populated, transient border areas, making containment a significant challenge;

Whereas, to date, according to the Center for Disease Control, Ebola had infected more than 4,400 people in West Africa and caused nearly 2,300 confirmed deaths;

Whereas the current Ebola outbreak has occurred in countries with some of the weakest health systems in the world facing severe shortages of healthcare workers, laboratories essential for testing and diagnosis, clinics and hospitals required for treatment, and medical supplies and protective gear, such as latex gloves and face masks required to prevent contamination of health facilities;

Whereas these weak and inadequate healthcare facilities, a lack of health staff trained in Ebola response, and misconceptions about the virus have resulted in numerous infections of health workers and patients unable to receive appropriate response and care;

Whereas effective countermeasures for stemming the spread of Ebola, such as isolation, meticulous infection control practices, case investigation, and contact tracing require more trained personnel and resources than are currently available in West Africa;

Whereas, although Ebola can be contained with good public health and burial practices, it continues to spread due to a lack of accurate public information, insufficient treatment facilities, limited local language capacities required for health education, and an unwillingness to allow those infected to be isolated from family members;

Whereas governments are collaborating closely with international donors and taking strong measures to contain the virus, including announcing states of emergency and establishing emergency response centers;

Whereas the limitations on transportation and travel and closing of businesses have had a devastating economic impact throughout the region and may cause social instability and exacerbate the humanitarian crisis if not properly managed and offset;

Whereas the international community has committed to support solutions to the current limitations on air traffic and establish a common operational platform to address acute problems associated with food security, protection, water, sanitation and hygiene, primary and secondary health care, and education, as well as the longer-term recovery effort that will be needed in the face of the complex social consequences of this emergency;

Whereas the Governments of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda have sent experts familiar with such outbreaks to Liberia to assist with the outbreak response, and the Governments of Senegal and Ghana have agreed to serve as logistics and coordination centers for the international assistance effort, providing vital corridors for supplies and personnel;

Whereas, after visiting affected communities in West Africa, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden said on September 2, 2014, “There is a window of opportunity to tamp this down, but that window is closing...we need action now to scale up the response.”;

Whereas the United States Government has provided more than $175,000,000 in support through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United States Agency for International Development, the World Health Organization, and the United States Armed Forces since February 2014 and intends to mobilize additional resources and support as announced by President Obama on September 16, 2014;

Whereas the United States Government helped to fund the development of the Zmapp biopharmaceutical experimental drug that was given to United States health workers afflicted with the virus and was recently donated to Liberian doctors with encouraging effect and has prompted calls for further research and development of such vaccines;

Whereas, on August 5, 2014, the United States Government deployed a multi-agency Disaster Assistance Response Team composed of staff from Federal agencies, including the United States Agency for International Development, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Defense, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Forest Service to coordinate the United States Government’s response efforts;

Whereas the World Health Organization published on August 28, 2014, a roadmap for scaled-up response that aims to stop the virus in 6 to 9 months and calls for 750 international and 12,000 local health workers to contribute to the halt of the Ebola outbreak; and

Whereas, earlier this year, the United States Government joined with partner governments, the World Health Organization, other multilateral organizations, and nongovernmental actors to launch the Global Health Security Agenda, a 5-year commitment to prevent, detect, and effectively respond to infectious disease threats such as Ebola: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the Senate—

(1) recognizes the severe immediate threat that Ebola poses to populations, governments, and economies in Africa;

(2) recognizes that the limited capacity of the initial outbreak countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia to combat the epidemic has been exhausted and the potential threat to regions beyond Africa if this, the largest of all Ebola outbreaks, is not contained;

(3) expresses support for those affected by this epidemic and affirms its sympathy for victims of Ebola and their families;

(4) supports the Governments of Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Senegal, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo for their ongoing efforts to combat the Ebola virus in their countries and regionally;

(5) urges citizens of affected countries to respect preventative guidelines provided by their governments and medical professionals from Africa and around the world in order to stem the outbreak;

(6) supports the work of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United States Agency for International Development, the Department of Defense, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of State, the Forest Service, and other United States Government agencies providing technical, logistical, and material support to address the Ebola crisis in West Africa;

(7) encourages deepened United States and international commitments to the global Ebola response;

(8) welcomes the delivery of assistance and increased engagement from donors such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union, the World Bank, the European Union, and the Government of Canada;

(9) expresses support for the promotion of investments in global health in order to ensure that governments can better prevent and detect, contain, and eventually eliminate outbreaks of disease while also providing other essential health services;

(10) supports the World Health Organization’s Ebola Response Roadmap and a common operational platform in response to the crisis;

(11) encourages the Governments of Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, and Sierra Leone to work together and with other nations and regional and subregional organizations to establish institutional emergency response systems to more effectively respond to this and future outbreaks of Ebola and other highly infectious diseases;

(12) welcomes proactive measures taken by governments in West Africa to formulate national plans of action in response to the crisis; and

(13) recognizes the work of thousands of African, United States, and international officials and volunteers on the ground in West Africa, particularly healthcare workers, who are working diligently and at great risk to help address this multidimensional crisis, and encourages other healthcare workers and logisticians to volunteer.

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