In 2019, Karen Bass, Democratic congresswoman representing parts of Culver City, CA, introduced a bill that has gotten everyone’s attention around the world. Being the current chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Chair of the United States Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations, she is the perfect person to come up and get such an essential bill approved. The bill was also co-sponsored by 38 congresspeople, including one Republican, Ron Wright of Texas.
The Contents of the Bill
The bill seeks to provide aid to the Democratic Republic of Congo, which saw its relief heavily restricted in November 2018 by President Trump over concerns that human trafficking was not being addressed sufficiently by the current government.
The bill begins with several findings, the key ones being;
- The Ebola outbreak in the DRC is the second largest in history, with over 1,000 confirmed deaths.
- Armed attacks on health centers have caused organizations like Doctors Without Borders to cease operations, worsening the health situation.
- The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 invoked by the President to revoke aid bans US assistance to countries involved in human trafficking but makes an exception where US national interest is concerned.
- It is in the national interest of the US to combat the Ebola outbreak in The Democratic Republic of the Congo before it spreads.
Based on these findings, the bill mandates immediate action to be taken by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in the form of “multi-sectoral, non-humanitarian and non-trade related foreign assistance.” The Bill also advocates an aggressive timeline, giving USAID 30 days after passage to report to Congress with a plan of action.
The Senate Companion Measure of the Bill
The Senate version of the bill was introduced by Senator Robert Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey. The initial findings remain the same. The Senate bill adds South Sudan and Burundi as two more countries meriting from the US aid to combat Ebola. The Senate bill was referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs last September.
Measures to be taken to Eradicate Ebola
The priority in Ebola outbreak intervention is to contain the virus, and MSF takes a multipronged approach to this objective. They aim to carry out health promotion campaigns to try to change community infection behaviors and interrupt disease transmission, and in health care facilities we reinforce infection control to try and prevent transmission within the health structures. When cases are identified in the community, team members would decontaminate households and the immediate environment and assist with safe burials. An army of epidemiologists will also be sent into the field to find cases, investigate rumors of outbreaks, identify novel transmission behaviors, and assist with surveillance programs
Importance of the Bill
Even amidst COVID-19, it is important to continue to address persistent global health concerns. Ebola is much more deadly than COVID-19, with case fatality rates ranging from 25 to 90% in past outbreaks. There is currently no proven treatment for Ebola, however, a new vaccine being employed at a small scale against the current outbreak has achieved promising results. Under the current standard of care, early intervention is key to improving outcomes, and US aid could be the difference-maker for many lives in affected areas.