The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is funding the development of a disease surveillance network in Africa and Asia with an initial contribution of up to $75 million.

The project is designed to gather useful data in a timely manner about how, where and why children are getting sick and dying which can be used by the global health community to help prevent unnecessary deaths. Much of the money will be used to update laboratory infrastructure and train staff.

In a statement on the matter, Bill Gates said the world needs better, more timely public health data not only to prepare for the next epidemic but to save children's lives now. He added that deaths of children in developing countries has been dramatically reduced over the past 15 years but more definitive data is needed to ensure the trend continues for the next 15 years.

Additionally, the network - known as the Child Health and Mortality Prevention Surveillance Network, or CHAMPS - could be repurposed quickly in the event of an epidemic such as Ebola or SARS to help provide capacity and training to local medical staff to contain an outbreak.

The first step will be to launch six locations throughout Asia and Africa in areas with high childhood mortality rates where workers will collect biopsies of children that have passed away. Gates told The Atlantic that he hopes to open 20 centers with financial assistance from partners that'll eventually be brought on.

Photo via Manuel Balce Ceneta, AP