Microsoft co-founder Allen to give $9 million for Ebola fight

By Reuters

Sep 11, 2014 11:39 PM EDT

Microsoft Corp co-founder Paul Allen's charitable foundation on Thursday will announce it is donating $9 million to support U.S. efforts to fight the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, a source familiar with the matter said.

The gift to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) comes at a time when international groups, including Doctors Without Borders and the World Health Organization, have said resources to contain the epidemic and treat those affected are falling tragically short.

Allen said the donation from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation will help CDC establish emergency operations centers in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, where the worst Ebola outbreak on record has killed about 2,300 people and shows no sign of slowing six months after it began.

"The tragedy of Ebola is that we know how to tackle the disease, but the governments in West Africa are in dire need of more resources and solutions," Allen wrote in an essay scheduled to be posted on his blog. "The developed world needs to step up now with resources and solutions."

Last month, Allen's foundation donated $2.8 million to the American Red Cross for its work on the outbreak.

On Wednesday, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation pledged $50 million to United Nations agencies and other international groups to purchase supplies, such as protective gear for healthcare workers treating Ebola patients, and to expand the emergency response.

U.S. President Barack Obama asked Congress for $88 million in new Ebola funding, including $25 million for CDC, but this week congressional leaders said they would provide no more than $40 million.

Allen said his foundation's gift would help CDC establish and equip emergency operations centers in the three most-affected countries, focusing on public health, not patient care.

The centers will use "data management and communication systems for disease and patient contact tracing, to detect and stop the disease from spreading," Allen wrote. They will also expand lab testing to identify new outbreaks, and disseminate information about the epidemic to the public.

"A winnable battle should never be lost," Allen wrote.

CDC has just over 100 public health experts in the Ebola zone, and plans to send more.

"Ebola is raging through parts of West Africa like an out-of-control forest fire but it can be controlled if the world comes together," CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said in a statement issued by the foundation.

The CDC Foundation, which was established by Congress in 1994 to raise funding to augment what CDC gets from Congress, recently committed $1 million to the Ebola response, including money for computers, personal protective equipment and thermal scanning thermometers for airport screeners, and training for healthcare workers.

Since resigning from Microsoft in 1983, Allen has become a prominent philanthropist, supporting scientific research through the Allen Institute for Brain Science and the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence. He also owns the Seattle Seahawks football team and the Portland Trail Blazers basketball team.

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