GHTC applauds inclusion of globally focused investments in COVID-19 emergency bill but notes vital gaps in USAID global health funding
The Global Health Technologies Coalition (GHTC) applauds the inclusion of emergency funding to support the international response to COVID-19 in the revised Heroes Act released yesterday. As the death toll of this pandemic crosses a grim threshold of 1 million lives lost worldwide, global solidarity and cooperation to defeat COVID-19 are essential. However, GHTC notes that additional pressing needs remain unaddressed by the proposal, including the need for dedicated funding for the US Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Global Health Bureau to support the development and deployment of COVID-19 products designed for use in low-resource health systems—a prerequisite to ending this pandemic globally and keeping Americans safe.
The proposed bill includes critical global health investments, including support for global disease detection and emergency response activities led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; a multilateral vaccine development partnership as well as vaccine production and distribution in lower-income countries led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance; and efforts to help low- and middle-income countries bolster health systems and respond to the outbreak via the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, the USAID Emergency Reserve Fund; and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). GHTC applauds the inclusion of these life-saving resources in the revised House Heroes Act and urges the swift consideration and advancement of these proposals by Congress.
GHTC also encourages congressional champions to support additional investment opportunities to resource USAID’s Global Health Bureau to advance COVID-19 technologies. Innovation is at the heart of the global exit strategy from COVID-19, and we will need to develop and adapt health products for low-resource settings to defeat the pandemic. Products well suited for delivery in very low-resource settings—where health systems are weak and where COVID-19 has the greatest potential to evade containment and cause tremendous suffering—are urgently required. This includes tests, treatments, vaccines, medical devices, health facility innovations, and personal protective equipment for frontline health workers—tailored to the unique constraints of very low-resource settings; as well as the financing, manufacturing, and delivery systems these essential resources require.
As the only US agency with a mission focused exclusively on global development, USAID is uniquely positioned to support product development to address the critical shortfall of appropriate tools. The agency’s deep international footprint, combined with its in-depth understanding of community needs, enables the agency to develop new health tools that are appropriate, affordable, and accessible for widespread use in low-resource settings where basic resources like electricity and clean water may be in short supply—including during health emergencies. In previous global health crises such as the West African Ebola epidemic and the Zika epidemic in Latin America, USAID helped crowdsource and advance to market innovative technologies to fight these outbreaks, and it is poised to do so again in the face of COVID-19—with adequate resources. In March, USAID issued a Request for Information (RFI) seeking proposals for low-cost, scalable innovations that could support the international COVID-19 response, including new products, service delivery approaches, and information channels. The agency received a strong response in the nine-day window the RFI was open, but funding is urgently needed to advance these proposals. GHTC urges leaders in Congress—who have for two decades championed forward-thinking investments in strengthening global health—to consider the full range of funding needed to tackle this unprecedented global health emergency by resourcing the unique capabilities of USAID. At this moment of global crisis, we must draw on the strengths of all partners to ensure that together, we can end the COVID-19 pandemic.