Despite the threat that devastating diseases pose to people around the world — including US residents — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Friday that it would slash spending for epidemic prevention by 80%.
The drastic cuts, first reported by The Washington Post, come four years after the US pledged to fight worldwide epidemics as Ebola ravaged communities in West Africa. At the time, Congress allocated about $600 million to the CDC to prevent Ebola and similar outbreaks, but that money is set to expire. The new cuts will specifically deprive vital funding from workers and researchers in scores of country around the globe.
Though public health crises, like the 2014 Ebola epidemic, which killed more than 11,000 people, or the 2016 Zika outbreak, may begin in other parts of the world, they can quickly spread to the US and other countries.
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In January, the Wall Street Journal first reported that the CDC had informed public health workers on the ground in developing countries that cutbacks were coming because the US government had “no new resources” to offer.
But the actual amount of the funding cut has stunned experts and public health leaders who say the money is vital for protecting people around the world — not just in the countries where illnesses originate.
“This is the front line against terrible organisms,” former CDC director Tom Frieden told The Washington Post. “Like terrorism, you can’t fight it just within our borders. You’ve got to fight epidemic diseases where they emerge.”
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Beginning October 2019, the CDC will focus funding on health work in ten “priority countries,” including India, Thailand, Vietnam, Jordan, Kenya, Uganda, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal and Guatemala. The move removes funding from places like Haiti, home to a deadly cholera crisis, and Congo, which had its own Ebola outbreak in 2017.
The cuts also seem to contradict previous statements by the Trump administration, including a commitment to fighting epidemics discussed in a White House blog post.
“The world remains under-prepared to prevent, detect, and respond to infectious disease outbreaks, whether naturally occurring, accidental, or deliberately released,” wrote Admiral Tim Ziemer on the White House website. “We recognize that the cost of failing to control outbreaks and losing lives is far greater than the cost of prevention.”