EJS Center board member Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala shares “Ebola Lessons for Fighting COVID-19”

During this unprecedented time of crisis, the EJS Center will continue to share insights on COVID-19 from leaders in our network. Many of our Amujae Leaders, mentors, board members, and partners are at the forefront of coronavirus response efforts and we are very encouraged by their leadership. We hope that others in our network will find these insights instructive.

EJS Center board member Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has significant experience in global public health, serving as the board chair of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. She also has a unique understanding of the economic impact of public health crises, having helped steer her country, Nigeria, through the effects of Ebola as Minister of Finance from 2011-2015.

Writing in Project Syndicate, she recently shared her insights on the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting lessons from the Ebola crisis:

“On April 12, the Democratic Republic of the Congo will mark 42 days since the last person who tested positive for Ebola was discharged from the hospital…

…The DRC’s success in combating Ebola was overshadowed by the fact that, during that fight, approximately twice as many people died from a preventable measles outbreak. One essential lesson for policymakers grappling with the greatest global health crisis in a century is that they must do everything in their power to prevent overstretched health systems from battling two epidemics simultaneously.”

She also emphasized the importance of bolstering preparedness for countries that have not yet experienced the full impact of the pandemic:

“A number of organizations, including Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance (of which I am Chair), have made funds available…to help the world’s poorest health systems step up surveillance activities, invest in testing, procure protective equipment, and train health workers. Technology is playing a part, too: Despite valid privacy concerns, some countries are rolling out tracing apps  – a relatively low cost, effective way to mitigate the virus’ spread. Africa is also using drones to distribute vaccines, protective equipment, and other vital supplies to remote areas.

Social distancing will slow the spread of COVID-19, but it will not win the war. Our best hope lies in finding a vaccine. While there may be 41 candidates of varying promise in the pipeline, we must learn from past mistakes. Too often, governments have sequestered vaccines in the countries where they were manufactured. We must ensure that when an effective vaccine becomes available, it is accessible to anyone who needs it, not just the rich, fortunate few.”

Read the full article here.

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