Press Releases

Larsen Calls on President Trump to Step Up Efforts to Combat Ebola and Protect National Security

Washington, DC, December 21, 2018

This week, Rep. Rick Larsen (WA-02) sent a letter to President Trump calling for the U.S. to combat the current outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The outbreak is already the second worst in history with more than 500 cases, including nearly 300 deaths.

“Experts at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) are among the very best in the world, having gained valuable experience during the largely unsung success of the response to the 2014 West Africa Ebola outbreak. These agencies have responded to other global emergencies where security threats were present. U.S. leadership will be critical to halting the current Ebola outbreak in the DRC and could convince other countries to increase their commitments,” Larsen wrote in the letter.

As Larsen noted in his letter, deploying CDC and USAID personnel to the epicenter of the outbreak would protect national security and align with the National Security Strategy and National Biodefense Strategy.

“I believe the U.S. response to date has been overly cautious. I ask you to direct the National Security Council to assess how many U.S. personnel are needed in North Kivu and Ituri, how to most effectively use them to combat the epidemic and how best to protect responders from security threats,” Larsen continued.

You can read the full letter below.

December 20, 2018

President Donald J. Trump

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

Washington, DC 20500

 

Dear President Trump:

The National Security Strategy (NSS) rightly identifies the impact of biological threats on national security. Building on this point, the National Biodefense Strategy (NBS) highlights the importance of U.S. intervention abroad, stating that “the health of the American people depends on our ability to stem infectious disease outbreaks at their source, wherever and however they occur.”

The current outbreak of Ebola in North Kivu and Ituri provinces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is already the second worst Ebola outbreak in history. The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified 505 cases, including 296 deaths, and the situation is likely to get worse. Deploying Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) personnel to the epicenter of the outbreak would protect national security and align with the NSS and NBS.

The domestic and international response has been complicated by ongoing violence in the region, largely perpetrated by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an Islamist militant group. This violence is inexorably linked to the spread of Ebola. The security situation has inhibited the international response, and new infections increased in the chaos and widespread mourning following a September 22 attack attributed to the ADF.

As dangerous as this outbreak is already, it will likely get worse without appropriate international intervention. North Kivu is home to 1.1 million internally displaced persons, complicating case investigation and contact tracing. The outbreak is also occurring near international borders, raising concern for further spread of the disease. In addition, the WHO has reported 51 infections of health workers, highlighting the insufficiency of the existing response in controlling the spread of the virus. The WHO and its partners currently on the ground are leading a brave response with limited resources and at high personal risk. With just a handful of U.S. personnel in the region, it is time for the United States to do more. Instead, CDC personnel were ordered to withdraw to Kinshasa, more than 1,000 miles away.

Experts at the CDC and USAID are among the very best in the world, having gained valuable experience during the largely unsung success of the response to the 2014 West Africa Ebola outbreak. These agencies have responded to other global emergencies where security threats were present. U.S. leadership will be critical to halting the current Ebola outbreak in the DRC and could convince other countries to increase their commitments.

I believe the U.S. response to date has been overly cautious. I ask you to direct the National Security Council (NSC) to assess how many U.S. personnel are needed in North Kivu and Ituri, how to most effectively use them to combat the epidemic and how best to protect responders from security threats. Additionally, I request a briefing from the appropriate NSC staff on this assessment and an implementation plan.

Sincerely,

 

Rick Larsen

Member of Congress

Washington State, 2nd District

 

CC: Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State, United States Department of State

CC: Robert R. Redfield, MD, Director, Center for Disease Control and Prevention

CC: Mark Green, Administrator, United States Agency for International Development

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