The European Union has raised its commitment to containing the Ebola virus to close to €1.1 billion, roughly doubling its support since a summit of EU leaders on 23-24 October at which David Cameron, the British prime minister, condemned the inaction of many EU states.
So far, 21 of the EU’s 28 member states have contributed. Of the €372 million provided by the European Commission, a relatively small chunk – €58m – is earmarked to help fight the immediate crisis, while €138m is being spent on longer-term development of the three countries worst hit by the outbreak: Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
The EU’s Ebola co-ordinator, Christos Stylianides, said on Tuesday (18 November), that the lack of basic healthcare systems was one of the major problems in the three countries.
The Commission’s biggest commitment to date is to the long-term challenge of finding a vaccine for the decades-old virus, which has killed more than 5,100 people this year. Stylianides said that the EU needed to send more medical personnel and epidemiologists “today, not tomorrow”.
The United States, the UK and Belgium have committed troops to West Africa to combat the disease, while France has provided military doctors. But a meeting of EU foreign ministers on Monday (17 November) ended with member states emphasising the importance of mobilising voluntary medical staff.
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Germany is formulating an idea to create a voluntary reserve pool of healthcare workers – to be known as ‘white helmets’ – to be deployed, with EU support, during future humanitarian disasters.