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Preparing Africa for COVID-19

The Ebola outbreak of 2014-16 underscored two truths of global crisis response: fundraising during emergencies seldom works, and the UN's general emergency-response fund is inadequate to pick up the slack. That is why a separate global fund, focused on disease outbreaks, should be created.

NEW ORLEANS – Six years ago, the Ebola virus ravaged West Africa. While Ebola is deadly and highly contagious, the economic and human costs could have been far lower if the international community had provided the needed support without delay. In the face of a new, fast-spreading virus, COVID-19, governments and international institutions are at risk of making the same mistake.

The Ebola virus arrived in Nigeria in July 2014, when an infected Liberian man flew into Lagos, where I was working as a doctor. When he came to our hospital for treatment, we were grossly unprepared. Indeed, I became infected, as did several of my colleagues.

But at least it was a private hospital with reasonable resources, including running water and medical gloves. Moreover, when we suspected we had an Ebola case, our medical director knew immediately to contact officials at the state health ministry and the World Health Organization. The state and federal health ministries mobilized resources immediately.

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