EU leaders on Thursday evening (23 October) named Christos Stylianides, the future Commissioner for humanitarian aid and crisis management, as a special coordinator on Ebola.
During the summit meeting in Brussels, EU heads of state confirmed the appointment of Stylianides who will be in charge of coordinating the EU’s humanitarian efforts in West Africa in the fight against the deadly virus.
Ebola has killed more than 4,000 people this year as well as infected more than 20,000. In Europe, Spain, Germany and Norway have already over the past months reported their first Ebola cases.
European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said in a statement that the EU decision-makers had an intense discussion about Europe’s response against Ebola. “There was a clear call for further support, countries are finalising their commitments, and tomorrow (Friday), we will adopt the conclusions on this point and I will be able to give you the latest figure,” Van Rompuy stated.
The incoming Cypriot Commissioner has previously stated his commitment to visiting the Ebola-affected countries and deciding on immediate action.
“As a doctor, I have to be on the ground to form my own opinion,” Stylianides said.
Earlier on Thursday, the Commission announced that €24.4 million from the EU budget had been earmarked for Ebola research. The funding will go to five projects, ranging from a large-scale clinical trial of a potential vaccine, to testing existing and novel compounds to treat Ebola.
The money comes from the EU’s research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020, and the Commission is also working with industry on further development of vaccines, drugs and diagnostics for Ebola via the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI).
José Manuel Barroso, the President of the Commission, said that the EU was “racing against time” on Ebola and must address both the emergency situation and put together a long term response.
The EU’s executive arm has so far pledged €180 million of humanitarian and development aid to help the African countries affected by the epidemic, through immediate healthcare to the affected communities and helping contain the spread of the epidemic through rapid diagnosis and disease awareness campaigns.
Besides financial aid, the EU is also contributing to fight the epidemic with experts’ presence on the ground and coordination for the delivery of supplies and possible evacuations.
The Ebola epidemic, the worst since the disease was discovered in 1976, has killed more than 4,000 people in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria and has also spread to Senegal.
Ebola is a haemorrhagic fever spread through the blood, sweat or vomit of those infected, making those working directly with the sick among the most vulnerable to the disease.
The WHO believes it will take six to nine months to contain and may infect up to 20,000 people.
14 of Liberia's 15 counties have reported confirmed cases. As soon as a new Ebola treatment centre is opened, it is immediately swamped with patients.
Liberia's government announced it was extending a nationwide nighttime curfew imposed last month to curb the spread of the disease.
There is not yet any macroeconomic analysis of Ebola's impact on West Africa, with IMF figures only indicating a modest decrease in growth for Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. But NGOs on the ground describe the situation as “catastrophic”.
The first case of infection with the Ebola virus in Europe took place in Spain.
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