Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. It's a pleasure to be here.
Thank you to the committee for the opportunity to present to you today.
I am the executive director of Doctors Without Borders, or Médecins Sans Frontières, and I am joined by my colleague, Dr. Jason Nickerson, our humanitarian affairs adviser.
Médecins Sans Frontières, or MSF as we are commonly known, is an international medical humanitarian organization that provides impartial medical assistance to people in more than 70 countries. We deliver hands-on, essential health services in some of the world's most complex environments, and we are no stranger to disease outbreaks.
Today we are facing an unprecedented crisis, created both directly and indirectly by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has reached all of the countries where MSF works. We are witnessing COVID-19 cases occurring alongside existing emergencies and creating a dangerous mix of public health risks. In the refugee camps of Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, nearly one million Rohingya refugees live in overcrowded, unsanitary conditions that are perfect for spreading COVID-19 in a place where it is virtually impossible for people to physically distance and where access to clean water is a persistent challenge.
In Central African Republic, years of conflict have left millions of people displaced and dependent on humanitarian assistance. MSF's teams on the ground are among the only providers of direct health care in the country, and the budget we require to operate effectively there exceeds that of CAR's own ministry of health. That means there is little capacity to provide medical care for everyday health problems, and it is certainly not sufficient for a pandemic.
COVID-19 is straining our own response capacity. It is critical, especially in the midst of this pandemic, that the Canadian government continues supporting and funding humanitarian action. This funding ensures that humanitarian organizations can continue their existing operations while also responding to new pressures created by the pandemic. In Canada, we can rely on our strong, stable health system. In other places, health systems struggle to meet people's everyday needs. For example, just yesterday, the Democratic Republic of Congo confirmed a second Ebola outbreak, meaning that the country is currently responding to two Ebola outbreaks, the largest measles epidemic in the world and COVID-19, all in a country that has been affected by armed conflict for decades.
To respond to the COVID-19 crisis and to meet the needs it is creating in Bangladesh, Congo and around the world, MSF has identified a budgetary need of $226 million through our COVID-19 crisis fund. Additionally, we are asking the Canadian government for a contribution of $10 million for this fund so that we can keep our people on the ground responding to this unprecedented crisis. COVID-19 has already caused an immediate expansion of our global activities, including in places we do not normally work, such as Canada itself.
Our delivery of medical care depends not just on funding. We also rely on affordable access to and innovation for new medicines, vaccines and diagnostic tests. These advances are crucial for the health and well-being of countless people around the globe, just as they are in Canada. However, the global research and development system is not designed to prioritize affordable access, especially outside of wealthy countries. Access to life-saving medicines is not equitable, and this is not acceptable.
As Canada spends more than $1 billion in public funding to develop and deliver COVID-19 technologies—a very welcome investment—it is essential that Canada demands a fair return on investment by including specific requirements in funding agreements with, for example, pharmaceutical companies or universities receiving Canadian public funds to ensure that any resulting health technologies are globally accessible and affordable, including for Canadians. Today, to our knowledge, no such requirements exist in Canadian funding agreements. It would be tragic and unethical if a vaccine to prevent COVID-19 or a medicine to treat it were developed with Canadian public funding and subsequently priced out of reach. We risk excluding billions of people from the life-saving benefits of these innovations if we don't act on this now.
As you consider Canada's essential funding contributions for COVID-19 R and D, I urge this committee to demand that such funding come with safeguards, so that the vaccines and treatments for COVID-19 developed with Canadian public funds are made affordable and accessible to everyone who needs them. Public funding must result in public goods.
The global pandemic will not end here until it ends everywhere. Now is the moment for global solidarity and smart public investment to ensure that everyone everywhere has access to the medical care they need.
We look forward to your questions. Our contact information is available from the committee clerk, and we would welcome any members follow up directly with me or Jason Nickerson.
Thank you very much.