News & Views
UN Says $1bn Is Needed to Fight Ebola Virus
Oct 14 2014
As the Ebola crisis in West Africa worsens and cases are reported in America and Spain, the UN calls for $1bn to fight the virus. It is the worst Ebola outbreak in history with more than 7,500 people infected and around 3,400 deaths at the time of writing. These numbers have increased significantly since mid-September, when it was reported that 4,985 people had been infected.
Symptoms of Ebola include high fever, vomiting and diarrhoea, chest pain and bleeding. It is not a highly contagious disease like influenza because it is transmitted through contact with bodily fluids. At present, there is no proven cure or vaccine for the disease.
World Health Organisation (WHO) deputy head, Bruce Aylward, emphasised the seriousness of the outbreak, "Quite frankly, ladies and gentlemen, this health crisis we're facing is unparalleled in modern times. We don't know where the numbers are going on this."
The UN’s Ebola co-ordinator, David Nabarro stressed that a massive surge in funding and resources was needed. In August, the UN requested $100 million to support the fight. A month later that request had increased ten-fold to $1bn as the epidemic escalated.
Shortly after Bruce Aylward’s speech, President Obama announced that the United States would send 3,000 troops to Liberia to help the relief effort. There has been a great deal of criticism over the slow response from some countries. In fact, the sheer severity of this outbreak is being blamed on the lack of international response.
Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), a medical charity working on the ground in West Africa, has asked other countries to follow America’s lead. MSF President, Joanne Liu said, "The window of opportunity to contain this outbreak is closing. We need more countries to stand up, we need greater deployment, and we need it now."
The most pressing need is for more health care centres and medical staff. In Liberia, desperately unwell people are unable to get the treatment they need as hospitals are at capacity. Highly infectious individuals are being turned away from MSF Ebola care centres and are forced to return home where they will potentially infect others. This is rapidly furthering the spread of the disease.
China has pledged to send a mobile laboratory team consisting of epidemiologists, clinicians and nurses, to Sierra Leone. But much more needs to be done. The UK confirmed that 750 military personnel would be sent to the region in mid-October. Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond also announced that the UK would be sending three helicopters and the RFA Argus, a medical ship.
In a statement given on October 8th, Philip Hammond said, "This disease is an unprecedented threat that knows no borders. We have to get ahead of this disease. If we get ahead of it and rise to the challenge, we can contain it and beat it." He also urged other countries to join with the UK and America in sending money and aid to support the efforts in West Africa.
Involvement from the UK and US comes as the first patients outside of Africa are diagnosed with Ebola. In America, Liberian native Thomas Duncan was visiting family when he fell ill with the disease. While in Spain, an auxiliary nurse who had been treating infected missionaries was also diagnosed. Alarmingly, Ebola has become a global threat.
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