Infectious disease emergencies have disastrous impacts on families, societies, systems, and economies. As an example, the impact of the 2014-2015 Ebola epidemic in West Africa stretched well beyond the estimated 11,310 deaths and the 28,616 known infections. Many health workers were lost, and health systems were unable to cope—severely restricting access to routine and life-saving health services. Millions of children lost months of schooling—many never returned—and thousands of children lost parents, siblings, and family members. Disruptions to markets and livelihoods also had dire consequences for the poorest communities. Major outbreaks in recent years, including coronavirus, influenza, Zika, plague, diphtheria, and yellow fever, have continued to demonstrate that governments, donors, and aid agencies are severely challenged in their response capacity and coordination, highlighting gaps in the global humanitarian community’s ability to respond to major infectious disease outbreaks.
In 2018, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) funded Save the Children to lead a three-year global initiative to augment global capacity to respond to major disease outbreaks—or infectious disease outbreaks with epidemic or pandemic potential that rise to the level of a humanitarian emergency. This initiative, known as READY, is working in consortium to augment coordination between global humanitarian outbreak structures and operational organizations responding to outbreaks. READY is also building and retaining standing capacity among operational consortium members to more quickly and effectively respond to major disease outbreaks and is designing and rolling-out an integrated, multi-sectoral response approach that addresses the holistic needs of outbreak-affected communities—with community engagement and communications at the heart of the initiative design. Though global in scope, READY will execute focused activities in four priority regions—Asia, East Africa, the Middle East, and West & Central Africa —and in six priority countries across these regions—Bangladesh, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Indonesia, South Sudan, Uganda, and Vietnam.