The European Union is scaling up its response to the Ebola disease in West Africa with an airlift operation to the affected countries. The European Commission’s Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC) will facilitate the transportation of relief items to West Africa. In addition, the EU will fund and coordinate if necessary the evacuation of international staff from Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.
A quarter of the new €4 million funding will be allocated to UNICEF, enabling three Boeing 747 cargo planes to transport vital material to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. The first plane will take-off on Friday, carrying 100 metric tons of emergency equipment from Amsterdam to Freetown, Sierra Leone. The supplies and equipment include personal protection equipment, including masks and gloves, as well as essential medicines and hygiene supplies.
In addition, the remaining €3 million will help in the setting up of a medical evacuation system, coordinated by the ERCC, that will enable international workers in West Africa diagnosed with the Ebola virus disease (EVD) to be evacuated in less than 48 hours by plane to hospitals within Europe that are equipped to deal with the disease.
This initiative is funded from €30 million in humanitarian aid announced by the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, in New York last month during a High Level Meeting in response to the Ebola Virus Disease Outbreak convened by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon.
“We are in a race against time to fight Ebola,” said Kristalina Georgieva, European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian aid and Crisis Response. “The European Commission alone has so far pledged some €180 million to help the affected countries. Funding is crucial but far from enough. That is why, together with our member States, we have been mobilising in-kind assistance including medical equipment and personnel.”
Tonio Borg, European Commissioner for Health, added: “To strengthen Europe’s preparedness to handle Ebola, we have been mobilising solidarity inside the EU. We are working closely so that patients can be treated in an appropriate healthcare facility.”
The ERCC is coordinating the transportation of aid, equipment and personnel to hotspots in the countries affected by the disease. European countries such as the UK, France, Austria and Belgium have already made use of the mechanism, providing field hospitals, ambulances, sanitation products, medical isolation equipment and experts to the affected region.
The European Commission has been scaling up its response to the epidemic since March 2014 and has so far pledged €180 million to help the countries affected by the Ebola virus (Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Nigeria). Humanitarian experts, mobile laboratories and teams of specialists from the European Mobile Laboratory project for dangerous infectious diseases have been deployed in the region, providing diagnostic support, monitoring the situation and liaising with partner organisations and local authorities. Funding will also cover the reinforcement of local and regional healthcare capacities and budget support to the affected countries.
The European Commission is also working closely with the EU Member States within the Health Security Committee to keep them informed about the latest developments and secure the synchronisation of measures. The Health Security Committee has produced advice for all travellers to the affected countries, available in all EU languages.
The European Union Civil Protection Mechanism (EUCPM) facilitates co-operation in disaster response, preparedness and prevention among 31 European states (EU-28 plus the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Iceland and Norway). The European Commission manages the Mechanism through the Emergency Response Coordination Centre. Operating 24/7, the ERCC monitors risks and emergencies around the world and serves as an information and coordination hub during emergencies. Through the Civil Protection Mechanism, the Commission also provides financial support to transport operations.