Gates Foundation offers $50 million to fight Ebola epidemic

Gates Foundation offers $50 million to help fight Ebola epidemic

As the spread of Ebola virus disease accelerates in West Africa, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced Wednesday that it was pledging $50 million to fight the epidemic.

The United Nations has estimated that it will cost at least $600 million to stop the spread of Ebola, which has caused the most devastation in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. To date, the outbreak has sickened 4,293 people and killed 2,296 of them, according to the World Health Organization.

The Gates Foundation funds would be used to purchase "badly needed supplies and scale up emergency operations in affected countries," a statement released by the foundation says.

The foundation also plans to work with public and private groups to help develop drugs and diagnostic tests that would help to keep the spread of the disease in check. Because the initial symptoms of Ebola virus infection can mimic those of other diseases like malaria or meningitis, patients might not be isolated quickly enough, experts say.

"To date, the Gates Foundation has committed more than $10 million of the $50 million to fight the Ebola outbreak, including $5 million to WHO for emergency operations and R&D assessments and $5 million to the U.S. Fund for UNICEF to support efforts in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea to purchase essential medical supplies, coordinate response activities, and provide at-risk communities with life-saving health information," the foundation's statement says.

"An additional $2 million will also be committed immediately to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to support incident management, treatment and healthcare system strengthening."

The U.S. government has so far offered roughly $100 million to fight the epidemic, while the World Bank Group has pledged $200 million in emergency aid.

On Tuesday, the Boston University-based West African Research Assn. called on President Obama to "set the tone for the rest of the world" and increase U.S. aid for Ebola.

"We call upon you, Mr. President, to take direct, immediate and decisive action to assist affected countries in bringing this threat under control," wrote Jennifer Yanco, the association's director.

"We are asking for dramatically increased U.S. support to combat this threat to global security. The U.S. has contributed $100 million, but this is not nearly enough. ... Over the past few months alone, the U.S. has spent more than $500 million fighting ISIS in Iraq. It is a national shame that we have spent only a fraction of that on our efforts to combat Ebola," Yanco wrote.

The association describes itself as an "international network of scholars and institutions devoted to the study of West Africa and diverse diasporas."

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