Ebola Crisis Declared

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Margaret Chan
addresses the media after a two-day meeting of its emergency committee
on Ebola, in Geneva August 8, 2014. Credit: Reuters/Pierre Albouy

The Outbreak in West Africa Prompts an International Emergency —
Will Congress Continue Funding for the World Health Organization?

Sign the Online Petition to Your Member of Congress!

The Reuters news agency filed this report yesterday (August 8th):

(Reuters) – West Africa’s Ebola epidemic is an “extraordinary event” and now constitutes an international health risk, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday.

The Geneva-based U.N. health agency said the possible consequences of a further international spread of the outbreak, which has killed almost 1,000 people in four West African countries, were “particularly serious” in view of the virulence of the virus.

“A coordinated international response is deemed essential to stop and reverse the international spread of Ebola,” the WHO said in a statement after a two-day meeting of its emergency committee on Ebola.

The declaration of an international emergency will have the effect of raising the level of vigilance on the virus.

“The outbreak is moving faster than we can control it,” the WHO’s director-general Margaret Chan told reporters on a telephone briefing from the WHO’s Geneva headquarters.

“The declaration … will galvanize the attention of leaders of all countries at the top level. It cannot be done by the ministries of health alone.”

(Read more at the Reuters website)

The purpose of the WHO statement was to promote vigilance and preparedness — not to start a panic. The Ebola virus can be contained if it is detected in a timely fashion and if proper infection control techniques are used.

For a helpful discussion of the
epidemiology of the Ebola
virus, see this article from the
Mother Jones website: “Here’s
the Science to Refute Right-
Wing Ebola Scaremongering”

Tara Smith, an epidemiologist and Ebola expert from Kent State University, notes that Ebola’s high mortality rate does not mean that it can spread easily in a country with a strong health care system, like the United States.

Even so, increased measures are required to control the spread of the virus, and the need is not limited to West Africa. Tom Frieden,
director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told members of a Congressional panel yesterday that, “We are all connected and inevitably there will be travelers, American citizens and others who go from these three countries — or from Lagos if it doesn’t get it under control — and are here with symptoms.”

At moments like this — when the need arises for international action to address a public health emergency — there is no organization that is better prepared or more respected than the World Health Organization (WHO).

The World Health Organization has been a specialized agency of the United Nations since 1948. WHO’s responsibilities include providing leadership on global health matters, shaping the health research agenda, setting norms and standards, articulating evidence-based policy options, providing technical support to countries, and monitoring and assessing health trends.

See a 2-minute video on YouTube titled, “World Health
Day at Heathrow Airport.” It features WHO staffers
advising travelers about how to protect themselves
from vector-borne diseases. (YouTube link)

Headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, WHO is governed by the World Health Assembly, which includes delegations from all 194 Member States of the United Nations. WHO is responsible for producing the World Health Report — an indispensable resource for policymakers, donor agencies, international organizations and others with the information they need to help them make appropriate health policy and funding decisions.

Since its creation, the World Health Organization has played a leading role in the eradication of smallpox. Its current priorities include communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis; the mitigation of the effects of non-communicable diseases; sexual and reproductive health; occupational health; substance abuse; and other topics.

Does Your Member of Congress Support the World Health Organization?

Maintaining America’s support for the World Health Organization should be a no-brainer. Unfortunately, we’ve got a Congress that is one of the least productive in our nation’s history. It needs to be reminded (repeatedly) to take care of the public’s business.

Additionally, where we live — in Oklahoma — we have more than one Congressman whose support for the United Nations is in doubt.

The work of the World Health Organization
(WHO) is vital to maintaining public health
around the world. Sign the online petition
at the link. Thanks!

For example, Rep. Jim Bridenstine (who represents the Tulsa area) told a Town Hall meeting earlier this year that President Obama “…uses foreign bodies, he uses, you know, the United Nations to change the laws in the United States.” (For the record, the president has not used the UN or any foreign body to try to change domestic laws).

On his Congressional website, Rep. Bridenstine asserts: “I support an independent foreign policy that is not restricted by international bodies like the United Nations.” (Has Mr. Bridenstine been talking to Vladimir Putin?) 

Another example is 5th district Congressman James Lankford (representing Edmond, Oklahoma City, Seminole). Rep. Lankford, who is running for the U.S. Senate, has indicated that he favors surrendering U.S. leadership in the United Nations entirely — which, presumably, would include withdrawal from the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization, UNICEF, etc. So, his vote in favor of funding the World Health Organization is not at all assured.

It goes without saying that these members of Congress need to hear from people like you and me.

To facilitate public action on this issue, the Better World Campaign has created an online petition: “Ask Congress to support WHO’s work amid the Ebola crisis.”

It allows you to send the following message to your member of Congress:

“With a second American infected with Ebola – a fatal virus that’s been rapidly spreading in West Africa – arriving back in the United States this week, it’s vital that Congress put its unequivocal support behind the life-saving work of the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO).

The United States of America is a leader in the World
Health Assembly, the governing body of WHO.
Unfortunately, some of our members of Congress
do not support American leadership in the UN.

“At a time of a global health crisis, the importance of an organization such as WHO transcends political or ideological differences. We can all agree on the necessity of tackling a disease outbreak such as Ebola before it impacts our own communities any further.”

The petition urges your member of Congress to support the WHO’s work in combatting Ebola and other disease outbreaks by voting to pay our UN dues in full.

Our best chance of stopping the spread of Ebola is by standing together as a global community and doing our part to help the World Health Organization.

No matter where you live or who represents you in Congress, please sign the petition …


“Ask Congress to support WHO’s work amid the Ebola crisis.”

… and share the message with your friends and neighbors.


Photo credit: Lutheran World Relief

Did you know?
92 percent of American voters believe it’s important for the U.S. to both provide funds and be part of the decision making process for the World Health Organization. 

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