Minister of Health Dr. Bernice Dahn; U.S. Ambassador to Liberia Deborah Malac; and representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the CDC Foundation and the Paul G. Allen Ebola Program participated on August 21 in a dedication ceremony of the Emergency Operations Center in Monrovia.
In the summer of 2014 during the Ebola response, officials from Liberia and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identified the need for a public health emergency management system and a physical emergency operations center to coordinate Ebola response activities. To meet this need, the CDC Foundation—a U.S.-based nonprofit organization that mobilizes resources to advance CDC public health protection efforts—assembled donor funding to help support a temporary emergency operations center, construct a two-story permanent emergency operations center and institute an incident management system to coordinate response efforts.
The Paul G. Allen Ebola Program donated $12.9 million to fund temporary and then permanent emergency operations centers in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. In Liberia other donors provided support to meet additional needs identified for the country’s emergency operations center.
During a public health emergency like Ebola, an emergency operations center provides a hub that brings all response functions together in one location. The emergency operations centers and incident management systems established for the Ebola response enabled better coordination of national activities, faster decision-making and data sharing among public health experts and emergency response partners. Public health officials in each country and CDC are working together to ensure that the emergency operations centers continue to provide a resilient, systems-strengthening infrastructure that remains in place for responses to future public health threats.
The government of Liberia provided the land where the emergency operations center building was constructed and made sure the project quickly received necessary approvals. In addition to the temporary and permanent emergency operations centers, support was used to buy furnishings, equipment and supplies. These items include computers, video conferencing systems, and other technologies. Support was also used to hire and train emergency operations center staff and provided for the development of custom and integrated data management tools for the Ebola response to assist with surveillance and contact tracing.
Other donors provided support to meet additional needs identified for the emergency operations centers. Facebook Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Dr. Priscilla Chan funded a second floor in the Liberia EOC through their donor-advised fund at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. This floor contains space for training public health workers and space for professional staff, including technical and response teams. Training rooms will help the Ministry of Health, CDC and other partners work alongside Liberia’s public health professionals as they learn new skills and strengthen existing skills in surveillance and public health emergency response. For example, Liberia’s new Field Epidemiology Training Program, a partnership with the Ministry of Health, CDC and Emory University of Atlanta, is holding classes in this space to educate health practitioners in identifying risk factors for disease and targets for preventive healthcare.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other donors provided funding through the CDC Foundation to implement a strategy to extend and support the Ebola incident management work by establishing 15 county-level emergency operations centers in Liberia. This funding supported the establishment of the facilities and the hiring and training of specialized staff to operationalize these emergency operations centers.
The Deputy Minister for Disease Surveillance and Epidemic Control under the Ministry of Health now manages the emergency operations center. Although Liberia’s emergency operations center was established in response to the Ebola epidemic, it now strengthens the Ministry of Health’s ability to manage future public health emergencies. Liberia’s emergency operations center positions the country to identify and prevent emerging disease threats, detect outbreaks when they occur and quickly respond to emergencies.