News Releases

Senator Murray delivered keynote at Seattle event for Commission focused on ensuring global health security

Senator Murray called for U.S. leadership and investments, highlighted successes of U.S. AIDS/HIV initiative, Global Health Security Agenda, and UN Population Fund

Senator Murray warned about health threats facing families living amid disorder in places like Venezuela, North Korea, and Syria, and the global threat of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria

Speech comes as new Ebola outbreak develops in Democratic Republic of the Congo

Senator Murray: “We know that when crisis strikes, it often strikes women hardest… The injustices and health challenges women face represent a missed opportunity for everyone. We know that investing in women, and ensuring they have access to birth control and health care, can have a significant impact not only on individual women and families—but also in helping avoid disorder in the first place, and address crises when they arise.”

Senator Murray: “And we all know we are most successful at protecting our families against the full range of global health security threats when… we recognize the link between global and domestic health, and acknowledge that diseases are not stopped by borders, or walls, or bans.”

Senator Murray: “We must treat not just disease and disorder, but fear and trauma. We must not only keep people healthy, we must help them feel secure and hopeful for the future.”

SEATTLE, Wash. – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), top Democrat on the Senate health committee, delivered the keynote address at a public event at the University of Washington held by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) as part of its Commission on Strengthening America’s Health Security. As a member of the Commission, Senator Murray spoke about how global health security impacts families in Washington state, across the country, and across the world, and argued for continuing the United States’ record of strong investments in global health security.

In her keynote, Senator Murray made the case for continued U.S. leadership and investment in global health security and pointed to the success of past global health efforts. She noted the impact of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief on fighting the AIDS/HIV epidemic, the progress of the Global Health Security Agenda in preparing countries across the world to respond quickly and effectively to potential health threats, and the United Nations Population Fund’s record of providing exceptional maternal care in the Za’atari camp for Syrian refugees.  

In addition to past success, Senator Murray discussed some of the current and looming threats to global health security, like the lack of access to medical care in Syria, the tuberculosis outbreaks in Venezuela and North Korea, the new Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the persistent threat of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria. Throughout her remarks, Senator Murray emphasized how every global health tragedy is also countless personal tragedies by telling stories of families facing health threats across the world.

Key Excerpts:

“As this important Commission to advance health security works to answer those questions—and more—we will remember the lessons of history—after all, the influenza pandemic of 1918 struck amid the “disordered world” of World War I. That pandemic killed 5 percent of the world’s population—more than the war itself. It devastated families and crippled communities. It filled hospitals, and morgues, and even streets with victims. Like every global tragedy, it was also countless personal tragedies. The loss of fathers and mothers who provided safety. The loss of sons and daughters who provided joy and hope. The loss of teachers, doctors, and priests, who, together, cared for minds and bodies and souls. The loss of a sense of safety and community. One of my priorities as a commissioner is to make sure we don’t lose sight of those losses and how our work impacts families. Especially how it impacts women and children.”

“We know that when crisis strikes, it often strikes women hardest as access to health care, including maternal care and family planning services, decreases. Areas affected by crisis account for almost half of all newborn deaths, and three-fifths of all preventable maternal deaths. And while access to care falls amid crisis, incidents of sexual violence and exploitation rise. We’ve seen the risks of sexual violence faced by refugees in Myanmar and Syria. And we’ve even seen sexual violence weaponized by groups like Boko Haram and the Islamic State. The injustices and health challenges women face represent a missed opportunity for everyone. We know that investing in women, and ensuring they have access to birth control and health care, can have a significant impact not only on individual women and families—but also in helping avoid disorder in the first place, and address crises when they arise.”

“…we must also protect against a future where our basic medical treatments are no longer effective at all. Last year, a woman in Nevada passed away from an infection resistant to all 26 antibiotics available in the U.S. This is a stark reminder that anti-microbial resistance poses an existential threat to modern medicine—the threat of a world where our current treatments are fundamentally ineffective, where diseases once easily treatable are easily terminal, and where common procedures—like joint replacements, organ transplants, and C-sections—are life-threatening. One estimate found that by 2050, drug resistant infections could kill 10 million people a year. Which is why the Antimicrobial Resistance Coalition so many partners in this room are working on is so important.”

“PEPFAR’s personal impact on families is no less striking. A single father in Cote d’Ivoire who got the treatment he needed to stay healthy and raise his daughters. An HIV-positive mother in Uganda who gave birth to six children—all HIV-negative. Across Africa there are some 14 million stories like these of people supported by PEPFAR. That success shows that strong and unwavering U.S. leadership, met not only by big promises, but big investments, and sustained diplomacy, can make a difference for families across the globe for generations to come. Congress must push to make sure we continue that leadership, or risk losing the hard won gains that have changed so many lives.”

“In 2014, the world watched in horror as Ebola spread from Guinea, to Liberia, to Sierra Leone, and then to Lagos, Nigeria—a city with over 21 million people, and a busy international airport. As former CDC Director Tom Frieden put it—‘we were right on the edge of the abyss.’ But thanks to past U.S. investments to help fight polio that had built up critical public health infrastructure… Nigeria’s outbreak was halted after three months and 19 cases.”

“And we all know we are most successful at protecting our families against the full range of global health security threats when we are able to take quick bipartisan action. When global, federal, state, and local agencies have the people, capacity, and funding they need. When we invest in innovative medical advances like a universal flu vaccine, antibiotics to combat resistant bacteria, new medical countermeasures and faster manufacturing processes. When we harness data and develop tools that help prevent, identify, and contain outbreaks quickly. When we stop fear and uncertainty with accurate information from trusted sources. When decisions are based on sound science and medical experts are not gagged by ideology—especially when it comes to women’s health. When we recognize the link between global and domestic health, and acknowledge that diseases are not stopped by borders, or walls, or bans. When we commit sustained, predictable resources and remember how immediate investments can have long-term payoffs, and how shortchanging programs today can have dire consequences tomorrow. And when we focus on how our decisions impact families, and make sure we plan for everyone, including the young, the old, women, people with disabilities, and those fighting chronic diseases.”

“In this dusty, crowded camp, out in the hot desert, the UN Population Fund runs a maternal health clinic that has accomplished an incredible feat—they’ve delivered nearly 10,000 babies without a single maternal death. While that sadly isn’t the norm for families displaced by conflict, it’s an important reminder of what’s possible when we focus on families and invest in their wellbeing, an important example of why we should support organizations like the UN Population Fund, and an important wake-up call for our own country. While the world here may not seem as “disordered” as it does in Syria, the United States has the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world—that is absolutely unacceptable.”

“And it shows exactly why I’m so determined to make sure that wherever we look, and whatever health threats we look at, we never overlook the families who must be at the heart of our response: infants and children, mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers. And we never overlook their communities, their schools and hospitals, their places of work and worship. We must treat not just disease and disorder, but fear and trauma. We must not only keep people healthy, we must help them feel secure and hopeful for the future. While we don’t know what the next danger will be, we’ve put the world back in order enough times to know the decisions we make today, will make all the difference in keeping our loved ones safe tomorrow.”

Read Senator Murray’s full keynote address below:

“Thank you for that wonderful introduction.

“Throughout history, tuberculosis has been known by many names, but for millennia its hacking cough meant one thing—a death sentence. By the beginning of the 19th century, it had killed one out of every seven people that ever lived. For centuries, the only treatment was fresh air.

“Then, in the 20th century, a better understanding of how the disease spread led to better hygiene, nutrition, and prevention. Medical advances provided the first ever treatment—and tuberculosis deaths plummeted. We saw clearly how scientific advances, public health awareness, and global efforts can save millions of lives.

“Unfortunately, we’ve also recently seen how fragile such victories can be. Today, tuberculosis is once again among the top ten killers worldwide. In 2016, it killed 1.7 million people—almost all in low and middle-income countries. One in four children it infected died—most without ever receiving treatment.

“Global instability has bolstered its return, like the deadly comeback in Venezuela, fueled by a food shortage, leaving people in poor health, an economic crisis, leaving people in cramped quarters, and a health care crisis as medical professionals flee the country, leaving people without access to care. The outbreak—and the resulting refugee crisis—threatens the entire region’s progress against tuberculosis.

“A similar threat is brewing in North Korea as new drug-resistant strains emerge.

“Those two countries—in their battle against just one disease—offer a glimpse of the challenge of securing global health.

“How do we keep health care systems stable, even when governments aren’t?

“How do we detect the next outbreak before it becomes the next epidemic?

“How do we make sure the most vulnerable have access to the care they need like reproductive care, maternal care, vaccinations, and even basic medical checkups?

“With over 65 million refugees, how do we meet the health needs of families caught in the crossfire of war?

“How do we effectively invest our time, expertise, and resources in global health security?

“How do we coordinate with partners across the “disordered world” Steve just described?

“As this important Commission to advance health security works to answer those questions—and more—we will remember the lessons of history—after all, the influenza pandemic of 1918 struck amid the “disordered world” of World War I. That pandemic killed 5 percent of the world’s population—more than the war itself. It devastated families and crippled communities. It filled hospitals, and morgues, and even streets with victims.

“Like every global tragedy, it was also countless personal tragedies. The loss of fathers and mothers who provided safety. The loss of sons and daughters who provided joy and hope. The loss of teachers, doctors, and priests, who, together, cared for minds and bodies and souls. The loss of a sense of safety and community.

“One of my priorities as a commissioner is to make sure we don’t lose sight of those losses and how our work impacts families. Especially how it impacts women and children.

“We know that when crisis strikes, it often strikes women hardest as access to health care, including maternal care and family planning services, decreases. Areas affected by crisis account for almost half of all newborn deaths, and three-fifths of all preventable maternal deaths.

“And while access to care falls amid crisis, incidents of sexual violence and exploitation rise. We’ve seen the risks of sexual violence faced by refugees in Myanmar and Syria. And we’ve even seen sexual violence weaponized by groups like Boko Haram and the Islamic State.

“The injustices and health challenges women face represent a missed opportunity for everyone. We know that investing in women, and ensuring they have access to birth control and health care, can have a significant impact not only on individual women and families—but also in helping avoid disorder in the first place, and address crises when they arise.

“I’m looking forward to the international conference CSIS has planned for next year to focus on the health of women and girls. We must make sure we address the needs of survivors of sexual violence and make sure women and families have access to the care they need.

“And that means protecting the places and the people who can provide that care. Medical professionals should be able to save lives without fear of putting their own lives in danger.

“Yet, last year I heard firsthand from the Syrian American Medical Society about a doctor in Aleppo who ran through gunfire to treat a newborn. Over 800 medical professionals have been killed in Syria since 2011, and three-quarters of medical professionals have left the country. Half of health care facilities are either closed or impaired, many from targeted bombings.

“The results are deadly and heartbreaking. A young woman dying of cancer because her chemotherapy lies across a warzone. Patients dying from kidney failure because a dialysis machine is out of order. Newborns dying in the cold winter because the windows were blown out of the hospital. Outbreaks of measles, mumps, and other vaccine preventable diseases among children unable to get vaccinated.

“And even as we work to provide basic medical treatment in warzones, we must also protect against a future where our basic medical treatments are no longer effective at all.

“Last year, a woman in Nevada passed away from an infection resistant to all 26 antibiotics available in the U.S. This is a stark reminder that anti-microbial resistance poses an existential threat to modern medicine—the threat of a world where our current treatments are fundamentally ineffective, where diseases once easily treatable are easily terminal, and where common procedures—like joint replacements, organ transplants, and C-sections—are life-threatening.

“One estimate found that by 2050, drug resistant infections could kill 10 million people a year. Which is why the Antimicrobial Resistance Coalition so many partners in this room are working on is so important.

“Although we can’t predict whether the next greatest global health threat will be, an antibiotic resistant bacteria, pandemic flu, or something we haven’t seen before, we can learn from our current progress against another disease that once turned global health on its head.

“In 2002, the global battle against AIDS seemed almost hopeless. New antiretroviral therapy had helped lower the death rate in the U.S. where over a quarter of a million people were living with the HIV,  but many people in our country still couldn’t get the treatment they needed, and the global picture was even bleaker. There were 42 million people in the world living with HIV. In Sub-Saharan Africa, where 30 million of them lived, less than one sixth of one percent of patients were getting treatment.

“Then, during the 2003 State of the Union, President Bush announced the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief—PEPFAR. I didn’t agree with President Bush a lot, but that was one of the finest moments of his presidency. We came together in a bipartisan way to make life better for families across the world. We showed that when we follow through on big promises—we can actually make a big difference.

“Over the next fifteen years, we dedicated more than $70 billion dollars to fighting AIDS through PEPFAR—the largest-ever global health project to target a single disease. Today, 13 high-HIV burden countries are on track to get the epidemic under control by 2020 thanks to PEPFAR support. In Namibia, new HIV infections have dropped by 40 percent in recent years. In Kenya, funding has lowered infant mortality rates, and prevented mother-to-infant HIV transmission in tens of thousands of cases.

“And PEPFAR’s personal impact on families is no less striking. A single father in Cote d’Ivoire who got the treatment he needed to stay healthy and raise his daughters. An HIV-positive mother in Uganda who gave birth to six children—all HIV-negative. Across Africa there are some 14 million stories like these of people supported by PEPFAR.

“That success shows that strong and unwavering U.S. leadership, met not only by big promises, but big investments, and sustained diplomacy, can make a difference for families across the globe for generations to come. Congress must push to make sure we continue that leadership, or risk losing the hard won gains that have changed so many lives.

“Of course while America needs to lead, addressing global health ultimately requires a global coalition, and global investments to prepare for crises before they strike. This is an important part of the vision of the Global Health Security Agenda.

“In 2014, the world watched in horror as Ebola spread from Guinea, to Liberia, to Sierra Leone, and then to Lagos, Nigeria—a city with over 21 million people, and a busy international airport. As former CDC Director Tom Frieden put it—‘we were right on the edge of the abyss.’

“But thanks to past U.S. investments to help fight polio that had built up critical public health infrastructure, Nigeria had a command center and a crack team of CDC-trained experts ready to respond. They quickly and effectively, screened at ports of entry, disinfected tainted locations, and followed up diligently with nearly a thousand contacts to prevent the spread of the disease. Nigeria’s outbreak was halted after three months and 19 cases.

“However, West Africa still faced a potential worst-case scenario of over one million infected.

“Despite political inertia, and pressure to implement an ill-advised travel ban, President Obama mobilized thousands of U.S. military personnel to help contain the disease—which ultimately infected 28,000 people, and killed 11,000.

“And afterwards, we redoubled our commitment to investments like those that were so effective in stopping the disease in Nigeria. President Obama fought for funding to address the current crisis, and won bipartisan support for over a billion dollars of investment through the Global Health Security Agenda to help prepare other countries to detect, prevent, and respond to the next crisis.

“Those funds have helped the Democratic Republic of Congo build a command center for yellow fever outbreaks, Liberia train 115 disease detectives with the CDC, and Cameroon increase disease surveillance to spot cholera outbreaks within a single day—to give just a few examples.

“The new Ebola outbreak in the Congo is another reminder of how important it is to ensure our global partners can respond to crises—even in areas in conflict.

“Of course, just as we need good partners across the world, we also need good partners across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. Partners like the Gates Foundation. Partners like PATH. Partners like the Washington Global Health Alliance. Partners like the University of Washington, and Washington State University, and so many other incredible organizations here in Washington state. And of course the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Thank you all.

“And we need partners across the aisle—like my fellow Commissioners Congressman Cole, and Senator Young who have joined me and Congresswoman Eshoo in this important work.

“CSIS has really done a great job making sure to include voices from across the spectrum in this Commission, and this event today. I am impressed by the lineup for the panel happening next—which is comprised of people making a critical impact on these issues here in Washington state and across the country. That should be a very insightful discussion.

“Both on this Commission, and in my work with so many of my colleagues, including ongoing efforts to reauthorize the Pandemic and All-Hazard Preparedness Act I’ve seen that global health security is an area where we can find a lot of common ground—because we all realize just how much is at stake.

“And we all know we are most successful at protecting our families against the full range of global health security threats when we are able to take quick bipartisan action.

“When global, federal, state, and local agencies have the people, capacity, and funding they need.

“When we invest in innovative medical advances like a universal flu vaccine, antibiotics to combat resistant bacteria, new medical countermeasures and faster manufacturing processes.

“When we harness data and develop tools that help prevent, identify, and contain outbreaks quickly.

“When we stop fear and uncertainty with accurate information from trusted sources.

“When decisions are based on sound science and medical experts are not gagged by ideology—especially when it comes to women’s health.

“When we recognize the link between global and domestic health, and acknowledge that diseases are not stopped by borders, or walls, or bans.

“When we commit sustained, predictable resources and remember how immediate investments can have long-term payoffs, and how shortchanging programs today can have dire consequences tomorrow.

“And when we focus on how our decisions impact families, and make sure we plan for everyone, including the young, the old, women, people with disabilities, and those fighting chronic diseases.

“And I want to speak about one more example that shows what kind of impact we can have when we do just that.

“When the United Nations Population Fund opened the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan, the United States provided most of the startup costs. As the conflict in Syria continued, the small set of white UN tents swelled into a city whose population far exceeded that of Olympia.

“In this dusty, crowded camp, out in the hot desert, the UN Population Fund runs a maternal health clinic that has accomplished an incredible feat—they’ve delivered nearly 10,000 babies without a single maternal death.

“While that sadly isn’t the norm for families displaced by conflict, it’s an important reminder of what’s possible when we focus on families and invest in their wellbeing, an important example of why we should support organizations like the UN Population Fund, and an important wake-up call for our own country. While the world here may not seem as “disordered” as it does in Syria, the United States has the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world—that is absolutely unacceptable.

“And it shows exactly why I’m so determined to make sure that wherever we look, and whatever health threats we look at, we never overlook the families who must be at the heart of our response: infants and children, mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers. And we never overlook their communities, their schools and hospitals, their places of work and worship.

“We must treat not just disease and disorder, but fear and trauma. We must not only keep people healthy, we must help them feel secure and hopeful for the future.

“While we don’t know what the next danger will be, we’ve put the world back in order enough times to know the decisions we make today, will make all the difference in keeping our loved ones safe tomorrow.

“I’m proud to serve on this Commission as we consider those decisions, and I’m glad to have so many thoughtful and caring experts joining in this effort. Thank you.”