Remarks by U.S. Ambassador Natalie E. Brown at End of Ebola Outbreak Declaration Event
Mubende District Mayor’s Gardens, Uganda | January 11, 2023 (as prepared for delivery)
Good afternoon! How wonderful it is to be here today to witness the declaration of the end of the Ebola outbreak. The intensity of the past few months left us all exhausted, but as we look back on that period, we can all be proud of the dedication, singular focus, collaboration, and non-stop efforts that brought us to today. Those of you here in Mubende bore the brunt of the outbreak. In November, I was here with USAID Assistant Administrator for Global Health Atul Gawande as efforts were ongoing to contain the outbreak. It is only fitting that we are back here today to celebrate its end. Thank you to the people of Mubende and local government leaders for your warm welcome.
Uganda has been a leader in global health security over the past 25 years. The impressive capacity built in the country to prevent, detect, and respond to disease outbreaks was instrumental in fighting COVID-19 and has been instrumental in this fight against the Sudan Ebola Virus. I commend the Ugandan people for their commitment, their resilience, and their sacrifices. As hope started to rise as COVID-19 restrictions eased, Ebola reared its ugly head. And Ugandans faced the challenge head on. The people of Mubende followed the guidance of the Ministry of Health and their district leadership, and their efforts saved lives.
The U.S. government has partnered with the people of Uganda for over 60 years. This partnership includes work through our U.S. agencies in Uganda including the United States Agency for International Development or USAID, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC (both represented here), the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and Department of Defense, National Institutes of Health, and Peace Corps. The U.S. has worked with Uganda through these agencies to implement programs like the Global Health Security Agenda, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief or PEPFAR, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, and the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative. Through these programs we have worked together to build and strengthen Uganda’s public health systems and improve the health of the people of Uganda.
Helping countries respond to public health threats quickly and effectively is critical for preventing regional and global spread of diseases. The U.S. government has committed to supporting countries including Uganda to quickly detect and respond to outbreaks, because an outbreak anywhere is an outbreak everywhere. And it is only due to this long history of partnership with Ugandans and Ugandan institutions that we were able to mobilize so quickly to support in this effort. The U.S. government, through the collective work of its agencies and implementing partners, contributed towards Uganda’s Sudan ebolavirus response across many areas, including laboratory investigations, surveillance, risk communication, health care waste management, infection prevention and control, engagement of communities, and the survivor program. Additionally, we committed direct technical assistance to the Ugandan response through support from 23 U.S. Mission staff and more than 50 subject matter experts with Ebola response experience to bolster the Ministry of Health’s and partners’ efforts from September 2022 to date. The end of the Ebola outbreak declaration today signifies that our collective efforts have paid off.
Yesterday, I joined Ministry officials and many other partners for the Ebola Virus Disease Outbreak Response Accountability Forum where we took stock of our collective efforts and impact. Together, we achieved numerous accomplishments, but we also agreed that there is still more to be done. The number of health workers infected in the line of duty calls for commitment and investment in a strong infection prevention and control program that is guided by a clear national strategic plan. The lack of approved therapeutics and vaccines for Sudan Ebola Virus highlighted an opportunity for strengthening partnerships for rigorous research. Having candidate vaccines and therapeutics might improve our ability to prevent deaths during the next outbreak. I am happy to note that representatives from the Ministry of Health are meeting this week with WHO, other partners, and vaccine manufacturers to determine the path forward for vaccine trials. There is also a need to investigate the origins of the outbreak, create capacity for a speedier response in the future, and establish the structures, protocols, and partnerships to support research into promising vaccines and therapeutics to ensure prompt medical care during the next outbreak. We look forward to working with the Ministry of Health and other partners to continue to strengthen Uganda’s health systems to better prepare and address future public health threats.
The U.S. Government commends the Ministry of Health under the leadership of Minister Aceng for steering the response with confidence and expertise. We extend our gratitude to all the frontline health workers whose tireless efforts brought us to the end of the outbreak. I applaud the many local and international partners that offered financial and technical support. And we especially commend you—the people of greater Mubende and all the districts that were affected—for approaching the outbreak with commendable vigilance. We empathize with those who lost loved ones and celebrate with survivors for beating this deadly virus. We recognize recovery is not easy, and we commend you for your resiliency. As we prepare for the next outbreak, keeping in mind that pandemics like COVID-19 and HIV are still with us, I urge the global community to invest in long-term preparedness and continued coordination. Let us remain vigilant and continue to strengthen our partnerships as we work together to improve the well-being of the people of Uganda. Thank you.