Last fall, Paul Allen took the global health community by surprise by launching the Tackle Ebola campaign, which is led by Allen’s company, Vulcan, Inc. With an initial $20 million in grants from the Paul Allen Foundation, the campaign secured a handful of partnerships to lead the charge.
By late October, Allen had upped his commitment to $100 million, making it the largest private contribution to combat the Ebola crisis. Allen’s big give was surprising and a bit shocking because his previous philanthropy had never touched humanitarian or global health issues before. In fact, though, as we've written, Paul Allen reportedly began tracking the current Ebola outbreak before a lot of governments saw it as a serious threat because of his work on wildlife conservation in Africa. As well, Allen’s philanthropic focus has been shifting and expanding over the last few years to include new issues, which makes sense for a guy who has $17 billion, has signed the Giving Pledge, and isn't getting any younger. So, all in all, it wasn't so bizarre that Allen jumped into the Ebola crisis with a boatload of cash for frontline work to contain epidemic.
But now, as the epidemic abates, and with some $39 million remaining of $100 million Ebola pledge, Allen's team is changing course. This comes as no surprise given Allen’s his quick response to the crisis to begin with.
Initially, big checks went out to the CDC Foundation, UNICEF, American Red Cross, and Doctors Without Borders. Where's the money going next, as the situation changes?
We'll get to that in minute, but first it should be noted that Ebola recovery in West Africa is precarious and the region has yet to fully emerge from the crises. This is a critical time to stay focus and not lose progress made during the emergency response phase. Which is why Tackle Ebola is now concentrating its efforts on supporting programs that help the regions health systems recover and better prepare for future outbreaks.
This is a pretty new program shift, but Allen isn’t wasting any time and has put up $6.5 million to build two portable medevac units. The units will be used to evacuate healthcare workers and volunteers should they become ill. He has also pledged to underwrite a separate fund that will cover evacuation costs that are not covered by insurance companies.
There is also the possibility of additional funding toward Tackle Ebola. Five months ago, Alexa Rudin, Communications Manager at Allen’s company, Vulcan—which leads the Tackle Ebola campaign— had said “The $100 million is a stake in the ground. He (Paul Allen) very definitively used the language at least $100 million, versus up to $100 million.”
So, no, Paul Allen is not going to pocket the unspent Ebola money now that people aren't dying anymore and move on to something else. On the contrary, he may dive deeper into the troubled healthcare systems of West Africa, spending even more money.