Stylianides announces first EU airlift for Ebola outbreak in DR Congo

A Liberian man walks past an Ebola awareness painting on a wall in downtown Monrovia, Liberia, 22 March 2015. [Ahmed Jallanzo/ EPA]

The EU today (23 May) announced its first tranche of aid in the fight against the Ebola outbreak in DR Congo.

The announcement in Brussels came as the beleaguered country announced the fourth suspected death from the disease.

Some 37 cases have now been reported in the north east of the gigantic but impoverished and politically unstable former Belgian colony.

The outbreak comes some two years after the previous Ebola epidemic in West Africa, which largely hit Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia and Nigeria.

The haemorrhagic fever is usually fatal, and causes horrific – and contagious – bleeding in its victims final days.

Speaking in Brussels, Crisis Management Commissioner Christos Stylianides said: “It’s vital to reach the affected areas and support early efforts in tackling the latest Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The EU’s humanitarian air service will help get specialised personnel and medical supplies to the northeast of the country.”

Currently the outbreak seems to be confined to the remote north-east of the sprawling state.

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Today’s first measures consist of an airlift of aid workers and medicines to the affected region.

A freight and passenger plane from the DG ECHO service will take off at the end of the week, at the request of both DR Congo’s Ministry of Health, and UNICEF.

It is intended to carry some 2,500 kgs of equipment and medicines, along with trained staff, leaving from the capital Kinshasa to Buta.

The affected area is largely out of reach for anything beyond planes and helicopters.

The air services are based out of hubs in DR Congo itself, as well as Kenya and Mali, according to a Commission spokesman.

“The EU is committed to providing further support and working closely with the national authorities, the World Health Organisation (WHO) as well as international medical NGOs and agencies,” Stylianides added.

In an interview last year with EURACTIV.com, Professor Paul Richards spoke of how Western medical intervention needed to be married to traditional African burial and mourning processes, in order to achieve the best results in stopping the disease.

Professor: What the EU got right – and wrong – about the 2015 ebola epidemic

The 2014-15 ebola outbreak in the west African states of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia left 11,000 dead, caused global panic, and saw the EU and member states put up nearly €2bn in financial aid.

According to Reuters, some 416 people are currently being monitored, who came into contact with the Ebola sufferers.

Further Reading

EU sets up medical corps after Ebola, Zika outbreaks

The EU wants to quickly respond to health emergencies,  such as the Ebola and Zika virus outbreaks in the future with a new medical corps, the European Commission said on Monday (15 February).

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