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A systematic examination of international funding flows for Ebola virus and Zika virus outbreaks 2014– 2019: donors, recipients and funding purposes

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Emily Jade Quirk, Adrian Gheorghe, Katharina Hauck

Abstract

Introduction There has been no systematic comparison of how the policy response to past infectious disease outbreaks and epidemics was funded. This study aims to collate and analyse funding for the Ebola epidemic and Zika outbreak between 2014 and 2019 in order to understand the shortcomings in funding reporting and suggest improvements.

Methods Data were collected via a literature review and analysis of financial reporting databases, including both amounts donated and received. Funding information from three financial databases was analysed: Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation’s Development Assistance for Health database, the Georgetown Infectious Disease Atlas and the United Nations Financial Tracking Service. A systematic literature search strategy was devised and applied to seven databases: MEDLINE, EMBASE, HMIC, Global Health, Scopus, Web of Science and EconLit. Funding information was extracted from articles meeting the eligibility criteria and measures were taken to avoid double counting. Funding was collated, then amounts and purposes were compared within, and between, data sources.

Results Large differences between funding reported by different data sources, and variations in format and methodology, made it difficult to arrive at precise estimates of funding amounts and purpose. Total disbursements reported by the databases ranged from $2.5 to $3.2 billion for Ebola and $150–$180 million for Zika. Total funding reported in the literature is greater than reported in databases, suggesting that databases may either miss funding, or that literature sources overreport. Databases and literature disagreed on the main purpose of funding for socioeconomic recovery versus outbreak response. One of the few consistent findings across data sources and diseases is that the USA was the largest donor.

Conclusion Implementation of several recommendations would enable more effective mapping and deployment of outbreak funding for response activities relating to COVID-19 and future epidemics.