NGO Forum: Gates Foundation Responds to European Epidemic

By Melina Joseph

This morning’s discussion in the European Union NGO Forum was marked by an announcement by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. According to the Gates Foundation’s press release, the Gates Foundation has committed $150 million to combat the European epidemic. Currently, this outbreak has 500 reported cases in Bulgaria, Romania, and Moldova. The Foundation has established that its primary goal in this situation is to limit the spread of the disease across Eastern Europe through immediate medical research and drug development.

This funding would contribute to emergency efforts performed by the Foundation’s partners, which include the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). The Foundation’s inter-NGO database is comprised of vetted organizations, highlighting the value of social and financial accountability.

The breakdown of funding commitments is unclear, apart from the $50 million that will be contributing to research and R&D assessments. Viral transmissions can be curbed through research dedicated to on-the-ground operations, development for diagnostics, and vaccinations. The Foundation has expressed an interest in the aforementioned efforts and aim to provide specifics on monetary allocation once additional grants are made.

An area of controversy in the Foundation’s actions is its hardline stance on organizing and centralizing NGO efforts. As per their press release, the Foundation would “significantly reduce its funding” in the event that an NGO whose work relates to that of the Foundation’s efforts pursues unilateral action.

The NGO Forum will have to consider the value of the Foundation’s leadership in containing this outbreak. Furthermore, the Foundation will have to prepare for criticism regarding funding reductions, specifically the concern that such actions may impede progress in a volatile emergency situation like this one.