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Billionaire Philanthropist Bill Gates warns that World is ‘Vulnerable’ to Deadly Epidemic of diseases like Ebola and Zika

Bill Gates also raised concerns over growing antimicrobial resistance to drugs, saying the success of antibiotics had created complacency

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Businessman Bill Gates exits through the lobby at Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York City, Dec. 13, 2016. (VOA)

Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates warned on Friday that the world was vulnerable to a deadly epidemic of an illness like flu, with the recent Ebola and Zika outbreaks underlining weaknesses in global efforts to tackle health crises swiftly.

Gates, whose foundation invests in improving healthcare in developing countries, said the global emergency response system was not strong enough and the ability to create new drugs and vaccines quickly was lacking.

He added that there needed to be more focus on developing treatments for likely epidemics.

“I cross my fingers all the time that some epidemic like a big flu doesn’t come along in the next 10 years,” Microsoft Corp founder Gates told Britain’s BBC radio.

“I do think we will have much better medical tools, much better response, but we are a bit vulnerable right now if something spread very quickly, like a flu, that was quite fatal.”

But Gates defended the World Health Organization (WHO) over widespread criticism of its handling of the 2014 Ebola crisis that killed thousands in west Africa, saying the agency was neither funded, nor staffed, to meet all the expectations.

He also raised concerns over growing antimicrobial resistance to drugs, saying the success of antibiotics had created complacency.

The misuse and overuse of antibiotics is accelerating antimicrobial resistance which is already complicating efforts to treat tuberculosis, HIV and malaria.

Gates said richer countries must help developing nations tackle disease, both for humanitarian reasons and for their own self-interest.

He said international co-operation had almost succeeded in wiping out polio which remains endemic only in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

If there are no new cases in the next three years polio will become the second human disease to be eradicated after smallpox in 1980.

“We’re very close. Hopefully, the last case will be some time next year,” Gates said.(VOA)

  • Ranger

    How does a philanthropist keep getting richer and richer? Bill Gates 73 Billion in 2015 @ 100 Billion in 2016

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Ebola Epidemic in DRC could Spread to International Borders Due to Insecurity, Underfunding

It is urging the international community to redouble its efforts to contain this deadly virus before it escalates further

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FILE - A medical assistant checks the temperature of people from Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) at the Ebola screening point bordering with DRC in Mpondwe, western Uganda, on Dec. 12, 2018. VOA

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies warns the Ebola epidemic in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo could spread to urban areas and across international borders because of heightened insecurity and a serious shortage of money. DR Congo Ministry of Health reports 1,739 cases, including 1,147 deaths, which indicates a 66 percent fatality rate.

The Ebola epidemic in conflict-ridden North Kivu and Ituri provinces started 40 weeks ago on August 1. What is particularly frightening about the latest situation report is that 20 percent of overall cases have occurred in just the last three weeks.

The International Red Cross Federation finds this sharp upsurge alarming. It is urging the international community to redouble its efforts to contain this deadly virus before it escalates further.

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An Ebola health worker is seen at a treatment center in Beni, Eastern Congo, April, 16, 2019. The World Health Organization is warning it may not be possible to contain Ebola to the two affected provinces in eastern Congo if violent attacks on health teams continue. VOA

The IFRC’s Director of Health and Care, Emanuele Capobianco, says the Ebola response faces a double jeopardy of insecurity and critical underfunding. He says the security situation is complex and will require a range of responses. But he notes the funding situation could be fixed now.

“At the moment, the financial situation for many of the humanitarian organizations is quite dire,” he said. “There is a real need to step up the response. Otherwise, activities will have to be scaled down and the impact on the future of the epidemic will be extremely serious.”

People who get infected with the deadly virus have a very high risk of dying. Studies from the 2014 historic outbreak in West Africa show that between 60 and 80 percent cases were linked to Ebola-infected bodies at traditional burials. Capobianco says Red Cross efforts to provide communities with safe and dignified burials are meeting with increasing success.

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FILE PHOTO: Health workers carry a newly admitted confirmed Ebola patient into a treatment center in Butembo in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, March 28, 2019. VOA

“Up to now, there have been up to 5,000 safe and dignified burials conducted and they are conducted for, as I mentioned before, the people who died either in the community or the Ebola treatment centers of Ebola confirmed,” he said. Also, for people who may be just suspected of Ebola. And, that is why the number of 5,000 is so high. That is a critical part of the work that we have done and which, at the moment is threatened by the lack of funding.”

ALSO READ: Ebola may Continue to Affect other Provinces if Attacks Don’t Stop, Warns WHO

Capobianco says the Red Cross has received less than half of the $30 million it needs to carry out its Ebola-control activities across affected parts of DR Congo, as well as preparedness efforts in neighboring Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan and Uganda.

He warns Red Cross operations will be forced to close within the next two weeks without additional urgent investment. (VOA)