New York, NY, May 7, 2020 — As the global COVID-19 pandemic begins to reach fragile and conflict-affected countries, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) today announced a $1 million contribution by Novartis to its COVID-19 response efforts in Uganda, Kenya and Somalia. This funding will help the IRC mitigate the spread of the disease among some of East Africa's most vulnerable communities and ensure the IRC’s life-saving work can continue to reach those in need.
David Miliband, President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, said: “Given the nature of this emergency, the health and pharmaceutical sectors have a crucial role to play in helping front-line response organisations like the IRC rapidly detect, respond to, and prevent further spread of COVID-19.”
“As innovators in health and medicine, Novartis has a unique understanding of the importance of basic protection measures in shoring up weak and vulnerable health systems against disease, and we are extremely grateful for their partnership and support.”
Vas Narasimhan, CEO of Novartis, said: “We have a deep and longstanding commitment to reimagining medicine and medicine access in sub-Saharan Africa. COVID-19 is an unprecedented challenge for patients and health care systems around the world, and Novartis is supporting the IRC’s important work to help prevent the spread of the virus among vulnerable communities in Uganda, Kenya, and Somalia."
The announcement comes as new IRC analysis estimates that without swift action in coming weeks, the world could see up to 1 billion infections and 3.2 million deaths due to COVID-19 over the course of the pandemic in 34 crisis-affected countries where the IRC works.
Refugees and displaced people in Kenya and Uganda face crowded living conditions in camps and communities where simple preventative measures like social distancing and handwashing are nearly impossible. Those living in Somalia, where health systems have been weakened by successive periods of conflict and natural disasters, face a “double emergency”: the direct health impact of COVID-19 and its secondary devastation to the fragile humanitarian, economic, security and political environments.
COVID-19 is in the early stages of spreading to these countries, which means there is still time to mount a coordinated response that can ease suffering today and guard against dangerous secondary impacts tomorrow. The IRC is on the front lines implementing a comprehensive response strategy that focuses on three areas: mitigating and responding to the spread in vulnerable communities, protecting its staff and ensuring the continuation of life-saving programming.
Funding from Novartis will help the IRC provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), hire key health care workers and infection specialists, strengthen surveillance of the coronavirus in camps and communities, equip hospitals and combat misinformation in communities across the three countries.
The funding support is part of a comprehensive response in which Novartis has quickly mobilised R&D capabilities, medicines, clinical trials expertise and philanthropic aid to address the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to several efforts to leverage capabilities in discovery, development and scale-up manufacturing, Novartis has committed $20 million through its COVID-19 Response Fund to support communities around the world most impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and over 20 U.S. cities helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future, and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.
Novartis is reimagining medicine to improve and extend people’s lives. As a leading global medicines company, we use innovative science and digital technologies to create transformative treatments in areas of great medical need. In our quest to find new medicines, we consistently rank among the world’s top companies investing in research and development. Novartis products reach nearly 800 million people globally and we are finding innovative ways to expand access to our latest treatments. About 109,000 people of more than 145 nationalities work at Novartis around the world. Find out more at