Tuesday

28th Jan 2020

EU urges stronger Ebola response from member states

The EU is pressing member states to step up efforts against Ebola as the epidemic continues to spread through parts of west Africa.

On Monday (15 September), the EU commissioners for health, development, and humanitarian aid urged member states to strengthen support to the region “where the situation continues to deteriorate”.

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  • EU has deployed mobile laboratories to diagnose and confirm cases of Ebola (Photo: European Commission)

The commissioners said the countries need effective treatment centres and more health workers.

“The EU is firmly committed to supporting the affected countries and their development in the immediate and longer-term,” said the commissioners in a joint statement.

The EU pledged €150 million to fight the disease and has sent in mobile laboratories to diagnose and confirm cases as well as to train laboratory technicians.

But a persistent lack of supplies and staff means aid workers on the ground are having turn away patients in an outbreak which has so far killed over 2,400 people, primarily in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea.

Although the survival rate is at 47 percent, higher than previous outbreaks, the speed and breadth of the spread has caught many by surprise with some infections now being reported in Nigeria and Senegal.

Overwhelmed aid organisations complain that a piecemeal response from the governments dealing with the epidemic as well as from the international community has made the relief effort more difficult.

Earlier this month, Sierra Leone proposed to lock down the country for three days starting on 19 September, which the charity Medecins Sans Frontiers says will only exacerbate the level of mistrust between patients and health workers.

Over the weekend, Liberia’s president sacked 10 high-ranking officials for having left the country.

Governments have also imposed travel restrictions and border closures, while airlines have grounded numerous flights.

Ghana’s president John Dramani Mahama described some of the measures as a “panic” response, which he says has undermined efforts to fight the disease.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Security Council is set to convene an emergency session on Thursday in Geneva to discuss international efforts to contain the epidemic.

“It is crucial that council members discuss the status of the epidemic, confer on a coordinated international response and begin the process of marshalling our collective resources to stop the spread of the disease," said the US ambassador to the UN Samantha Powers, reports Reuters.

The UN says its needs at least €465 million to purchase supplies and hire new doctors to send to the regions affected.

The Americans, for their part, are also set to deploy some 3,000 US troops in the area.

US officials say the troops will help train new health workers, construct facilities, distribute home health care kits, establish a joint command base in Monrovia, and conduct an information campaign on how to handle suspected cases.

US president Barack Obama on Tuesday is also set to ask Congress for $88 million to help fight the outbreak.

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