Public-private partnership with Rusal: Ebola response initiative in the Republic of Guinea
Public-private partnerships have become an essential means of responding to critical challengesfor governments and public-sector actors.Bringing private-sector counterparts into the fold leverages the capabilities and expertise of companies both large and small. Public-private partnerships allow a wider public to benefit from the technical advances and resources of the private sector. In developed economies such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and Russia, public-private partnerships help build infrastructure and provide basic services. It was the West Africa Ebola outbreak, however, thathelped illustrate how the same public-private partnership model could be deployed to take on a global health crisis on an equally global scale.
Ebola Breakout in the Republic of Guinea
The Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) emerged as a global health crisis in 2014, starting in Guinea and rapidly spreading across land borders to Sierra Leone and Liberia. The epidemic was made worse by poor health infrastructure, economic decline and the outflow of foreign investment: according to the World Bank, the combined GDP of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone reduced in value by USD 2.2 billion in 2015 as the virus continued to spread. To bring the epidemic under control, Rusal and other major companies with an active presence in the region served as part of an unprecedented global array ofpublic-private partnershipsthat brought together the public sector, global business and both international and local civil society to coordinate an effective Ebola response effort.
Ebola is an acute disorder with a high mortality rate, averaging 50% during the 2014 epidemic. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there were at least 28,616 cases of infection registered in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone- leading to the deaths of 11,310 people. Particularly in Guinea, the officialinternational response led by the WHO was found severely lacking by health experts.With the private sector playing a critical role in supporting and augmenting public sector efforts, authorities declared Guinea officially free of Ebola in December 2015 — twoyears to the month after the first outbreak was detected in the country.
Rusal fights against Ebola: Public-Private Partnerships in Guinea
Private companies already operating on the ground, including major metals companies like Rusal,were able to dedicate extensive internal resources within the framework of public-private partnerships on the ground in Ebola-affected countries. Their work included research and development for medical interventions, utilising logistics networks to transport supplies, facilitating educational campaigns in affected areas, constructing treatment units and preparing burial grounds. By developing and deploying technologies and infrastructure to support the response, and acting as advocates through their networks, the private sector contributed to the response well beyond its traditional role as donor.
At the start of the crisis in April 2014, Rusal reacted immediately in support of the Guinean government, becoming the first foreign company in Guinea to work to combat Ebola. In October 2014, Rusal signed a Cooperation Agreement with Rospotrebnadzor (the Russian Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing) to play a leading role in Ebola treatment and prevention.After just 50 days, Rusal had constructed one of the most modern centres in the region to combat viral diseases throughout West Africa: the Centre for Epidemic and Microbiological Research and Treatment (CEMRT) in the Kindia administrative region.In combating the Guinea Ebola outbreak, the Centre enjoyed the best survival rate in the country: 62.5% of its patients have since recovered.
President of Guinea Alpha Condeattended the opening ceremonyin January, and Rusal President Oleg Deripaskawelcomed the opening of the Centre as well. Mr. Deripaska presented the Centre as the cornerstone of the Rusal Ebola response: “I strongly believe that sustainable business operating globally should be well prepared to address any challenges, and epidemic is not an exception. I am proud that Rusal is the only public company which realized such an important large-scale project to stop Ebola virus in Guinea.”
In March 2015, Rusal also convened a high-level working group in Brussels, bringing together the heads of parties, including President Conde, to establish a joint public-privatepartnership Ebola response plan. This programme culminated in a May 2016 roundtable discussion in Geneva, bringing together the WHO Director-General, the Russian Federation’s representatives to the United Nations, the Ministry of Healthcare of the Russian Federation, ICC Russia and Rusal under the theme “Russian vaccine against Ebola: prospects for joint activities”. At the roundtable, the Government of Guinea agreed and the Government of Russia agreed that the Russian vaccine Gum Evak-Kombi would be employed in-country to combat the epidemic.
Public-private partnerships: An Innovative Solution against Ebola
Rusal was not alone in leveraging its local resources within the framework of public-private partnerships to bring an end to the Ebola outbreak. The Ebola Private Sector Mobilisation Group (EPSMG) brought together companies including ArcelorMittal, London Mining, and KRL International to educate employees in affected areas and donate personnel and equipment. Another successful example is illustrated by the non-profit organisation Airlink, which used a $3 million grant from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation to establish an “air bridge” between the United States, Europe, and West Africa. As airline and freight carriers rerouted away from West Africa, Airlink worked with major airlines like Air Canada and logistics companies like UPS and FedEx to ensure critical medical supplies and protective equipment reached humanitarian workers on the ground. Through its efforts, Airlink delivered over 500 tons of cargo to assist the crisis relief effort.
Thanks to the efforts of this and other international public-private partnerships with the governments of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, the Ebola epidemicwas contained and ongoing risk was mitigated. Nonetheless, the risk of future Ebola outbreaks, or other public health disasters, is far from eliminated. The Guinea Ebola outbreak highlighted significant opportunities for effective public-private partnerships, and the international community must build on existing momentum to set the foundations for future collaboration models. In Guinea, Rusal has demonstrated that it has the unique experience of providing a rapid response to emergencies, mobilising international and domestic resources to provide on-the-ground assistance to government and non-government entities.