Patty Murray

03/14/2019 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 03/14/2019 18:22

Senator Murray Stresses Need for Strong Investments in Global Health Security at Hearing on Ebola Crisis in Democratic Republic of the Congo

Ebola outbreak in DRC has killed almost 600 people and is the second largest in history

Recent Trump budget scales back investments in global health security and PEPFAR, President Bush's landmark program that has supported the global fight against HIV/AIDS

Murray: 'These investments [in global health security] are not just the right thing to do for their own sake, but the smart thing to do to keep families in our country safe as well.'

Murray: 'Continued U.S. leadership is crucial. So as we work to address this current crisis, we must remember the dangers of falling back on 'America first' rhetoric. We can't do this on the cheap and we can't pretend diseases are stopped by borders, or walls, or bans.'

Washington, D.C.- Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS), delivered opening remarks at a subcommittee hearing on the ongoing Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The outbreak, which has killed almost 600 people, is now the second largest Ebola outbreak in history.

In her remarks, Senator Murray emphasized the importance of U.S. leadership in global health security, and made the case for building on strong investments in efforts like President Obama's Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA). She asked Dr. Robert Redfield, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about the U.S. response to the current Ebola outbreak so far, and also raised her concerns with the Trump Administration's recent budget proposal, which would require the GHSA to scale back its activities, and would make severe cuts to the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), a program which has supported significant global progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Key excerpts from Senator Murray's opening remarks:

'This outbreak is a tragedy for families grappling with the loss of loved ones, and communities struggling with the challenges of getting this outbreak under control, and rebuilding in the aftermath. And it's also a threat for neighboring countries, as confirmed cases have continued to shift closer to the DRC's borders.'

'During the current outbreak, it's important we remember that in a world as connected as ours one of the best ways to keep our country safe is to continue U.S. leadership on global health security, and that means investing in public health and preparedness systems both here and abroad.'

'For many years, the U.S. Government has provided funding to our partners abroad to address specific diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, and polio. These investments have been crucial to saving lives, stopping the spread of diseases, and in building the capacity of public health systems in other countries. These investments are not just the right thing to do for their own sake, but the smart thing to do to keep families in our country safe as well.'

'Continued U.S. leadership is crucial. So as we work to address this current crisis, we must remember the dangers of falling back on 'America first' rhetoric. We can't do this on the cheap and we can't pretend diseases are stopped by borders, or walls, or bans.'

Full text of Senator Murray's opening remarks below:

' Thank you, Senator Blunt.

'I welcome our distinguished witnesses, Doctors Fauci, Redfield, Kadlec, and Admiral Ziemer. I'm looking forward to your testimony about emerging disease threats and how we can better protect the health of families across the country-and across the world.

'Today, the Democratic Republic of Congo is facing the second largest Ebola outbreak in history. Since the outbreak began in the DRC last year, the response has been complicated by internal conflict and violence, making it much more difficult to respond-including to conduct contact tracing and get treatments into the area-and more dangerous for health care workers facing hostility. Almost 600 people have died, and public health experts predict the situation could get much worse.

'This outbreak is a tragedy for families grappling with the loss of loved ones, and communities struggling with the challenges of getting this outbreak under control, and rebuilding in the aftermath. And it's also a threat for neighboring countries, as confirmed cases have continued to shift closer to the DRC's borders.

'We all saw the heartbreaking images of loss during the 2014 Ebola outbreak. We also saw how much fear that outbreak caused here in the United States, even leading to ill-advised proposals to implement a travel ban on impacted countries. During the current outbreak, it's important we remember that in a world as connected as ours one of the best ways to keep our country safe is to continue U.S. leadership on global health security, and that means investing in public health and preparedness systems both here and abroad.

'This is especially important as we face greater threats from viruses which spread from animals to people, such as Ebola, as well as danger from less exotic, but no less dire, threats such as antimicrobial resistance. In response to these threats, we must make sure our partners around the world can identify emerging diseases early and respond appropriately. They need strong public health systems that can respond quickly to threats in their countries before they fester and expand beyond control, threatening both their citizens and people across the globe.

'For many years, the U.S. Government has provided funding to our partners abroad to address specific diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, and polio. These investments have been crucial to saving lives, stopping the spread of diseases, and in building the capacity of public health systems in other countries. These investments are not just the right thing to do for their own sake, but the smart thing to do to keep families in our country safe as well. And we've realized these investments must be broader than specific diseases. We need to make sure that other countries have trained public health staff, rapid emergency response systems, and improved communications to respond to all types of emerging diseases.

'In response to the 2014 Ebola outbreak, this Committee provided over $2.7 billion to build more prepared health systems both here and abroad. That included: funding for the development of new and improved vaccines and medical countermeasures against emerging pathogens; funding to equip U.S. hospital systems for dealing with the most deadly pathogens; and almost $600 million to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as part of President Obama's Global Health Security Agenda.

'These investments have made a clear difference. Thanks to this work, Nigeria was able to stop the 2014 Ebola outbreak from ballooning when the virus reached the largest city in Africa. And more recently, an Ebola vaccine is being used successfully on a limited basis in the current outbreak. Its development was supported with funding from the National Institutes of Health and BARDA.

'U.S. investment in the Global Health Security Agenda has led to countless other public health advances in other countries as well, and I look forward to hearing examples of that from our witnesses today.

But continued U.S. leadership is crucial. So as we work to address this current crisis, we must remember the dangers of falling back on 'America first' rhetoric. We can't do this on the cheap. And we can't pretend diseases are stopped by borders, or walls, or bans.

'So while I'm glad this Administration has said it supports this critical work, I want to hear about its plans to continue the progress of the Global Health Security Agenda. And as the current Ebola outbreak continues to pose a very serious public health threat, I want to hear more about the specific actions your agencies plan to take moving forward.

'This dangerous outbreak demands global attention and I'm eager to understand how decisions are being made to navigate this complex crisis, and what the U.S. Government and Congress can do to continue to bolster critical public health efforts.

'I hope today will provide an opportunity for you to share your insights on this, and tell us what else is needed on the ground in the DRC.

'Thank you.'