GHTC urges Congress to pass COVID-19 relief bill with funding for global health innovation
The Global Health Technologies Coalition (GHTC) urges Congress to pass a COVID-19 emergency supplemental bill that includes at least $11 billion for global health programs to support the international response to this unprecedented global health emergency. As the death toll of this pandemic crosses a grim threshold of more than 1.6 million lives lost worldwide, global solidarity and cooperation to defeat COVID-19 are essential. However, GHTC notes that international funding has not been included in any of the bill proposals released in the past month. If not corrected in the final bill taken up by Congress this week, this grave oversight will have profound long-term implications for health and economic recovery globally and here in the United States.
While the global burden and death toll of COVID-19 is staggering, the full impact of the pandemic is coming into clearer view, and the case for US leadership of a coordinated global response has never been stronger. Recent analyses have raised the volume of alarm bells global health advocates have been ringing for months: UNICEF estimates that an additional 1.2 million children will die of preventable causes other than COVID-19 due to pandemic-related disruptions to health care. The Global Fund estimates that an additional 1 million people could die of AIDS and tuberculosis in 2021. The World Bank estimates that an additional 150 million people will fall into extreme poverty by the end of next year. Fortunately, these stunning numbers are warnings, not pronouncements: the United States, beginning with the COVID-19 relief bill before Congress this week, can and should take decisive action to reverse these trends and accelerate global recovery by investing in proven partners, programs, and systems that can save lives and prevent economic catastrophe in the most vulnerable regions of the world.
GHTC echoes the core message endorsed by our coalition and more than 50 other partner organizations in a September message to congressional leadership: “Reducing human suffering and helping people around the world is a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy…The U.S. led the establishment of the Global Health Security Agenda, developed life-saving vaccines for Ebola and Zika, trained disease detectives in countries around the globe to detect outbreaks and deploy a rapid response, and has made countless other contributions to strengthening global health security. By mounting Grand Challenges for Ebola, Zika, and Saving Lives at Birth, we have ensured that American innovation is put to use to solve global challenges. Now is the moment to ensure that these resources can be brought to bear for the global response to COVID-19 through the allocation of emergency funding—at a price tag that is modest in comparison to the cumulative investment in global health. The global effort to end the COVID-19 pandemic will be a long road, but an investment in the global response now is a down-payment on maintaining American progress against the pandemic.”
Our appeal has remained the same for months: in the next COVID-19 relief bill, Congress should appropriate at least $20 billion in emergency funding for programs funded through the International Affairs Budget, including at least $11 billion for bilateral global health programs and the multilateral response to support a holistic global response to COVID-19. GHTC particularly underscores the need for dedicated funding for the US Agency for International Development’s (USAID) 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. USAID partners stand ready to adapt and deploy game-changing technologies to fight COVID-19 if sufficient funding is allocated. 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 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 has received hundreds of proposals for potentially game-changing innovations, but funding is urgently needed to advance and scale them. As discussed during a November roundtable with innovators and congressional staff, many of these innovations could support the COVID-19 response in low-resource and rural communities right here in the United States as well as globally—with forward-thinking congressional investment in USAID’s unique capabilities.
Furthermore, Congress should support a robust US contribution to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to advance COVID-19 vaccine candidates. Support for CEPI will help ensure that vaccines developed will be deployed effectively worldwide to help those most in need. Supporting such bilateral and multilateral investments in the global response will ultimately benefit the United States: a recent analysis suggests that the United States has more to gain from contributing to international efforts to secure access to COVID-19 tools than any other donor country, with $78.8 billion in economic benefits at risk in 2020-21 and $207.1 billion at risk from 2020-25 if action is not taken now.
GHTC urges leaders in Congress—who have for two decades championed transformative investments in strengthening global health—to not let the tremendous challenges faced by our country this year obscure our vision for what American global leadership can accomplish. As the first COVID-19 vaccines are delivered to health workers across our country, we are reminded of the power of science, innovation, and partnership to solve challenges that once appeared insurmountable. 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. An investment of at least $11 billion to support global health programs now will be remembered by our allies and partners for decades to come as we look back on the first year of the greatest global health challenge in a century: we urge Congress not to let 2020 end without this demonstration of global solidarity.