Health Commissioner Tonio Borg on Monday (20 October) told MEPs that a network of high-security laboratories have been established to ensure that EU member states will have the necessary facilities to diagnose the infected persons infected with Ebola.
Together with Kristalina Georgieva, the commissioner responsible for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, Borg gave a presentation on the Ebola crisis in front of the MEPs during the European Parliament plenary session in Strasbourg.
“The Commission has also established a network of volunteer clinicians in Europe who have experience in treating Ebola patients,” said Borg.
The executive will approve €25 million in the days to come for pre-clinical research of different possible Ebola vaccines, Borg added.
The European Commission has taken a number of steps to help these countries and stop the ongoing spread of Ebola. The EU allocated more than €180 million for the cause and has stepped up efforts to ensure medical evacuation for hundreds of European volunteers in West Africa. It has also provided support such as equipment, protective gear, and special aircrafts designed to transport infected patients.
However, MEPs were critical of the Commission’s ‘slow response’ to the crisis. Spanish MEP Lidia Senra Sanchez from the GUE/NGL group said having the adequate medicine is not enough to deal with such a disease.
“We also need to combat the causes that create vulnerability, such as unemployment, which affects some 80% of people in these countries, as well as famine,” she said. “The solution is not just about giving money to the pharmaceutical industry in western countries but providing help to the affected countries that need health workers and other measures.”
Ebola cases worldwide have doubled since mid-September, said Georgieva. In total, the number of infected people went from about 5,000 to 9,000. Similarly, the number of those who died increased, hitting 4,546 from less than 2,000. About 230 of the dead were health professionals working in the field with infected people, she said.
The development aid commissioner also highligted the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) estimation that by mid-December, the global health community will have to deal with more than 10,000 Ebola cases a week.
According to Georgieva, West Africa is dealing not only with a health crisis, but also with an economic and humanitarian crisis. The World Bank predicts that affected countries will lose about €5.7 billion in 2014 and if the virus persists, €19.5 billion in 2015.
The spread of Ebola was also discussed by the EU Foreign Affairs ministers at a meeting in Luxembourg yesterday (20 October). In the Council conclusions, the ministers called on all actors to put in place objective information campaigns for the EU citizens and “to reinforce regional and international cooperation at appropriate levels”.