EU calls for wider response to the Ebola epidemic



The EU will intensify its financial assistance to Western Africa, in order to contribute to the efforts in the fight against the Ebola outbreak. At a special meeting held yesterday (15 September) in Brussels, the bloc reiterated its willingness to work hard to stop the spread of the disease. EURACTIV Spain reports.

The European Union has intervened several times since the outbreak of the epidemic, and to date, has spent nearly €150 million in order to help the most affected countries, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.

By 8 September, the World Health Organization (WHO) had reported 4,293 cases of the disease, and 2,296 deaths. The situation is not easy to control, the international organization admits.

“The Ebola outbreak that is ravaging parts of Western Africa is the largest, most complex and most serious of the last forty years of history of this disease,” said WHO Director General, Margaret Chan, in a press conference in Geneva last Friday. “The number of people affected is progressing faster than the ability to manage them,” she warned.

At the meeting in Brussels yesterday, the Commission announced that Liberia and Sierra Leone will receive financial assistance from the EU to “provide health care services and strengthen macroeconomic stability in response to the broader economic difficulties caused by the crisis”. However, the budget for this new assistance has not been disclosed.

Brussels calls not to lower the “solidarity guard”

In the event, organized by the Commission, representatives of the 28 members of the EU, as well as representatives of WHO and the United Nations, took part. At the meeting, the Commission called on member states to not relax their efforts in solidarity with the four countries most affected.

Ebola not only affects adults. The United Nations Fund for Children (UNICEF) has issued an alarm regarding the “devastating” impact of the disease in children.

In Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone live 4.5 million children under the age of five who need help, because “even Ebola not look like a typical childhood disease, its impact on children is becoming more harmful,” says the Spanish UNICEF committee.

Spain optimistic that the epidemic can be contained

The secretary of State for International Cooperation of Spain, Jesús Gracia, said that the epidemic can be contained, and not spread in more African countries, as well as outside of the continent.

For its part, the Commission expressed solidarity with countries most affected by the expansion of the outbreak, and paid tribute to the humanitarian and health workers working in the field.

“The EU is gravely concerned by the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, where the situation continues to deteriorate. Our thoughts are with the victims, their families and the dedicated healthcare workers who are doing their utmost to fight the spread of the virus and take care of the victims. Today, we have discussed with EU Ministers how to coordinate further steps in a Europe-wide response to the epidemic,” say in a joint statement Andris Piebalgs, European Commissioner for Development, Kristalina Georgieva, European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Tonio Borg, European Commissioner for Health.

Brussels’ financial efforts are aimed, among other things, at contributing to better treatment of infected patients, measures to contain the epidemic,  the strengthening of health systems and the improvement of food security, water and sanitation.

Brussels also announced that it has deployed EU mobile labs in the region, in order to help with the diagnosis and confirmation of cases, and to train laboratory technicians.

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