WHY IS THIS INVESTMENT IMPORTANT?
As part of a coordinated humanitarian response during and after a natural disaster or in times of conflict, investing in health care and services is critical to saving millions of lives. U.S. funding provides essential health care, such as emergency medical interventions, nutritional support, and access to clean water and sanitation, and prevents the outbreak of diseases. Strategic, timely, and effective action by the U.S. humanitarian and health funding agencies – including USAID/OFDA, PRM, and CDC – has allowed lifesaving interventions to reach millions of people throughout the world. In 2015 alone, the U.S. government provided $1.1 billion in direct support for emergency health programs.
The U.S. is also committed to responding to outbreaks of infectious disease, most recently during the Ebola epidemic in West Africa and Zika globally. Currently, only one-third of countries are prepared to prevent, detect, and respond to these global risks. The U.S. has committed to improving the health systems of developing countries to prevent these future disasters from occurring abroad and within the U.S.
Recent disasters, such as the Nepal earthquake, saw not only a large outpouring of public and private U.S. financial support, but also a large number of volunteers serving in emergency-affected areas. Americans support U.S. investments in humanitarian health because such investments reflect American values of assisting those in need. Immediately after Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines in 2014, killing more than 6,000 people, U.S. foreign medical teams arrived to care for the living. After the Nepal earthquake, emergency medical professionals deployed to run lifesaving search and rescue operations. In West Africa, American doctors and nurses deployed to fill critical gaps in health care during the Ebola outbreak. The U.S. military responded by establishing emergency treatment centers and transporting essential supplies.
While many emergencies cannot be predicted or prevented, the resulting loss of life can be reduced through appropriate mitigation and preparedness efforts. The U.S. should remain steadfast in its leadership role of building resilient health systems in low-income countries, responding quickly and efficiently when emergencies occur, and coordinating and supporting efforts in post-emergency recovery. Since many issues arising from emergencies require longer-term solutions, the U.S. has supported countries after initial disasters to help address the most critical health needs and strengthen the recovery phase.