ADMINISTRATOR SAMANTHA POWER: Thank you so much, Secretary Blinken. It is so great to be here on such a historic day for the Department and for the United States. We see too often how the lessons learned during periods of crisis have a way of fading and receding from memory as the emergency itself fades – but your leadership, Mr. Secretary, is helping us harness those lessons to make us all safer. You are institutionalizing the lessons of one of the great tragedies of modern history.
And of course, I want to thank Ambassador Nkengasong. There could not be a better person to head up this new bureau. Thanks in part to your steadfast leadership, PEPFAR not only remains perhaps the single greatest public health achievement in history – as the Secretary said, having saved an astounding 25 million lives – but it has also offered the world a truly vivid testament to America’s compassion and America’s capacity for innovation and impact. This country’s ability to work with partners around the world to do hard things, to achieve big results. That is something PEPFAR has shown and your whole career, Doctor, has been in service of doing big and hard things for communities around the world.
Today, we urgently need to continue this U.S. leadership to meet profound – and growing – global health security challenges.
Here’s a sobering statistic. Research shows that, as risk factors from climate change, conflict, and globalization increase, the probability of pathogens emerging and spreading, the odds of living through a pandemic of similar severity to COVID during our lifetimes are nearly 40 percent. 40 percent.
If, that is, we do not work with our partners across the world to strengthen our collective efforts to prevent, detect, and respond to emerging threats. These efforts are going to require diplomacy on a massive scale. To give a sense of the need here, the WHO and the World Bank estimate that the annual funding gap in pandemic preparedness is $10 billion annually. This new bureau is going to play an absolutely vital role in coordinating with our partners to summon the global cooperation, and the resource investments needed to keep us all safe.
The good news is we have seen how well investments in global health security work, in fact, do work. Take the recent developments in the Democratic Republic of [the] Congo. In 2018, Ebola hit the Eastern part of the DRC, circulating for at least four months before it was detected. A reported 2,287 people died. That number was likely much higher.
But then, starting in 2019, the DRC worked on strengthening its outbreak response capabilities – an effort we at USAID were thrilled to be able to support alongside the State Department and the CDC. The CDC brought its world renowned expertise on epidemiology and diagnostics. State led the diplomatic work, negotiating at the highest levels of the Congolese government, as well as providing the security and the tech resources that all the teams needed to operate on the ground. USAID worked directly with communities to build trust and we helped improve lab testing, surveillance, and reporting; and with the CDC, distributed a lifesaving new Ebola vaccine. Together we partnered with community health workers to help them recognize disease warning signs and respond safely when new threats emerged.
Last year, Ebola hit the Eastern DRC again. But this time, it didn’t take four months to detect the virus. It took 48 hours. Instead of thousands of casualties, there were five.
This new bureau is going to help draw in partners around the world as we work together towards our collective security and wellbeing – and help continue America’s legacy of global health leadership when the world needs it most.
Thank you so much. And now, let me turn it over to another extraordinary leader in the movement for healthier communities, Secretary Becerra.