The first case of Ebola struck Lagos, Nigeria in July of 2014. A serious outbreak of this highly lethal infectious hemorrhagic fever in a megalopolis connected to points around the globe would have been catastrophic. American diplomats in Nigeria had a mission: convince local authorities of the gravity of the situation and give them the tools to shut the disease down.
Shortly after the first case of Ebola appeared, coauthor Jeff Hawkins, the American Consul General, drawing on close ties built up over years, called on the Lagos governor on a Sunday afternoon with an urgent message, “Governor, fighting this disease, now, has to be your number-one priority.”
The governor picked up his phone and ordered his finance minister to put millions of dollars at the disposal of his health officials. Lagos State, working with the Nigerian Federal Government, the World Health Organization (WHO), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and international NGOs sprang into action educating the public, organizing contact tracing and setting up treatment and isolation wards. By the end of September, after only eight deaths, Nigeria declared that it had no further cases and the epidemic there was over. With considerable assistance from the international community, Nigerians stopped the raging spread of Ebola nearly before it started.
As this real-life example shows, American diplomacy is a vital component of effective response to infectious disease. [Read more]