Funding for critical CDC disease prevention programs abroad is about to run out

A substantial pot of federal funding allotted to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to protect the globe from deadly infectious diseases is set to run out by 2019, which could potentially have a major impact on global health and mortality.

In December 2014 Congress passed legislation providing $5.4 billion in funding to contain the historic Ebola outbreak in western Africa, and while the bulk of that funding went directly to subduing the outbreak, $1 billion was earmarked to assist developing countries — where many of these outbreaks begin in the first place — to help them detect and deal with epidemics before they expand around the world.

The money was used “to train epidemiologists, buy equipment, upgrade labs, and stockpile drugs. If it disappears, progress will halt, and potentially reverse,” one analyst wrote.

That may come to pass. The funding is set to expire next year and, with no firm commitment yet from Congress to provide additional monies, the CDC is already planning to cut staff and work in 39 countries including the Democratic Republic of Congo, which recently experienced its eighth Ebola outbreak, and China, which is currently undergoing its worst outbreak of H7N9 bird flu.

Already, the CDC is informing country directors that it will be forced to shutter their operations without adding funding from Congress. [source]

Analyst comment: This is one of those ‘foreign aid’ programs that may, on the surface, appear to run counter to the Trump administration’s “America first” mantra but in fact is vitally important to sustain. You could even consider it a matter of national security because allowing the global pandemic alert infrastructure to disappear makes us more vulnerable to an outbreak. “We’ll leave the field open to microbes,” said Tom Frieden, a former CDC director who now heads an initiative called Resolve to Save Lives. “The surveillance systems will die, so we won’t know if something happens. The lab networks won’t be built, so if something happens, we won’t know what it is. We can’t be safe if the world isn’t safe. You can’t pull up the drawbridge and expect viruses not to travel.”

Jon E. Dougherty is a political, foreign policy and national security analyst and reporter with nearly 30 years of experience in both fields. A U.S. Army veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, he holds BA in Political Science from Ashford University and an MA in National Security Studies/Intelligence Analysis from American Military University.

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