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A new batch of urgently needed medical and relief supplies is leaving to the Ebola-affected region in West Africa today on board of the Dutch ship “Karel Doorman”.
For the second time, as part of the coordinated European response to the Ebola outbreak, the Netherlands has offered to transport vital supplies free of charge. The vessel is carrying 1,500 tons of food for the World Food Programme (WFP) in addition to more than 50 vehicles, medical supplies and protective clothing for health personnel offered by Belgium, France, Germany and the UK.
In addition to shipping equipment, the EU has facilitated more than sixty airlifts of material offered by its Member States to the affected region.
“In addition to our intensive political efforts, we have mobilised logistical, financial and scientific resources to help contain, control and ultimately defeat Ebola – but the epidemic is far from being over,” underlines Christos Stylianides, EU Ebola Coordinator and Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, who recently visited the affected region. “We are at a decisive stage in the fight against the disease and more is needed – more health workers, more access, more efforts to improve the response on the ground and the healthcare systems of the affected countries.”
Scaling up the medical response
A number of Member States have mobilised medical workers, equipment and hospital beds.
The United Kingdom has set up two field hospitals with more than 90 beds and 126 personnel in Sierra Leone, as well as five treatment centres with 100 beds each. Two mobile hospitals offered by the Netherlands are now operational in Sierra Leone and Guinea.
France recently offered two medical teams who will work in Guinea and Mali, in addition to 57 health workers already deployed. Sweden deployed 42 doctors, nurses and other medical personnel via the EU Civil Protection Mechanism: they currently run a treatment centre in Liberia. Greece will send a team of six medical personnel – four doctors, a nurse and a paramedic – to the affected countries.
To support the mobilisation of international humanitarian aid workers, the EU is also strengthening the capacities to evacuate international aid personnel who contract Ebola. Following Luxembourg, which is preparing two planes for medical evacuations, Germany has now made available an airplane fully equipped for the transportation of severe Ebola cases.
Joint efforts for a more efficient response
To ensure a robust and effective European response, the EU is coordinating contributions in aid supplies, medical equipment, ambulances, field hospitals, Ebola treatment centres and medical staff. So far, Norway and 13 EU Member States – Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands, Romania, Slovakia, Sweden and the UK – have sent assistance through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, which facilitates the rapid deployment of emergency supplies and experts. In addition, six of them as well as Italy, Luxemburg and Spain have offered logistical help, medical equipment and personnel on a bilateral basis.
Early detection and prevention
Three European Mobile Laboratories (EMlabs) have been deployed to the affected region for the detection of the virus and training of health workers; an additional one will be operational in early 2015. Mobile laboratories can be quickly deployed to the areas where an outbreak of the virus has been detected, speed up diagnosis and thus limit the transmission of infection.
In a joint effort to prevent the epidemic from spreading further, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, France, Germany and the UK have sent additional mobile laboratories equipped for diagnostics to all affected countries.
The Ebola epidemic in West Africa is entering its 10th month and has taken a devastating toll. More than 17 900 people have been infected, 6 300 of whom deceased. Beyond the immense need in immediate healthcare, the epidemic also generates shortages in food, clean water and sanitation and heavily impacts the economies of the concerned countries. The lack of healthcare services for non-Ebola cases remains another major concern.
The European Union has been active in the response to the Ebola emergency from the start. So far, the EU has contributed to the fight against Ebola with over EUR 1.1 billion funding for humanitarian and development aid, early recovery assistance and medical research, has sent experts as well as emergency supplies and provided evacuation means for international health workers.