Remarks by U.S. Ambassador Natalie E. Brown at Ebola Virus Disease Outbreak Response Accountability Forum
Serena Hotel Kampala Conference Center | January 10, 2023 (as prepared for delivery)
Good morning! I am delighted to be with you today at this Ebola Virus Disease Outbreak Response Accountability Forum, a follow-on to our November 10th discussions, where we agreed to reconvene to take stock of our collective efforts and impact. I am so glad that as we gather today at the start of the new year, it is with the wonderfully positive expectation that the Ministry of Health will be able declare tomorrow the end of the current Ebola virus outbreak in Uganda.
Honorable Minister, the U.S. government commends you for your leadership, and especially extends its gratitude to the Ministry of Health and all the frontline health workers and implementing partners who worked tirelessly to bring us to this point.
I also take this opportunity to thank the World Health Organization for their partner coordination role; the diplomatic and development community for their support; and the many implementing partners for their work on the ground and for aligning with the Ministry of Health guidance on how to reach communities, conduct surveillance, and safely manage patients.
The U.S. government recognizes that a healthy population is the foundation for a country’s stability and success. As the largest single provider of health assistance to Uganda, the United States is committed to improving the health of all Ugandans so they can live longer, more prosperous lives and better contribute to their communities and the growth of their country. Our enduring partnership with the people of Uganda, for 60 years now, has seen us achieve many health-related successes together. One key accomplishment of our collaboration has been strengthening Uganda’s health systems and capacity to address HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. Another is our growing partnership in the Global Health Security Agenda, of which Uganda was an early adopter. Together, we have strengthened Uganda’s capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to public health threats through strengthening laboratory diagnostic capacity, establishing the national and regional public health emergency operations centers, rolling out the electronic Emergency Logistics Information Management System, and offering three levels of the Field Epidemiology Training Program, with a graduation this Friday.
The U.S. investments and the strong partnerships built over the past 60 years contributed to the platforms used in the Ebola outbreak response. For example, Uganda no longer has to ship its samples out of the country and wait for months to get the results to inform treatment and control measures. Instead, Uganda leads the region in collecting, transporting, and testing laboratory samples and returning results rapidly, as observed in both the COVID-19 pandemic and the Ebola outbreak. Through the national and regional Emergency Operations Centers, Uganda conducts critical disease surveillance that saves lives. And as Uganda’s field epidemiology training programs mature in both the public health and animal health sectors, Uganda will be even better prepared to prevent, detect, and respond to outbreaks and potential disease threats.
To complement our previous investments, for this EVD response, the U.S. government, through the collective work of its agencies and implementing partners, contributed $34 million toward laboratory investigations, surveillance, patient care, health care waste management, infection prevention and control, engagement of communities, and the survivor program. In addition to 23 staff based here at the U.S. Mission who were fully deployed to the response, we also brought in 51 expert colleagues with Ebola response experience to bolster the Ministry of Health’s and partners’ efforts from September 2022 until today.
Again, I am pleased that we are gathered here to review our progress in a spirit of collaboration, mutual accountability, and transparency and commend the government for convening this meeting. The success of an outbreak response depends on the commitment of the country. The Government of Uganda through the Ministry of Health has demonstrated that an outbreak response can be successful when it is a well-coordinated, country-led response led by the government with continuous engagement with its partners.
As the World Health Organization Director General Dr. Tedros once said, “At the height of outbreaks, we are galvanized, but we quickly lose focus.” As we prepare for the next outbreak—keeping in mind that COVID-19 is still with us—I urge the Government of Uganda to invest in long-term preparedness and continued coordination. It is prudent that we operate in a transparent manner by sharing experiences and lessons learned for a stronger united front, with accountability as a core aspect of our work, so that we ensure maximum impact for every shilling, Euro, and dollar invested.
As we look forward, I thank the Ministry of Health and partners for your commitment to our shared goal of stronger, resilient health systems capable of responding to public health outbreaks and emergencies such as Ebola in a timelier manner, saving more lives. I am hopeful that this Ebola Virus Disease Response Accountability Forum, which is ushering us into the new year, will see Uganda and its partners become stronger, better prepared, and uniquely equipped to respond to future health threats that we may face. The U.S. government recommits itself to continuing to partner with you as we work towards a brighter future, together. Thank you.