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EU intensifies the Ebola fight

The European Union is stepping up its efforts to contain the spread of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and has increased its funding for immediate health operations, experts and risk assessments to €1.1 million, and is contributing with medical equipment to help accelerate diagnosis, according to a release from the EU Delegation in Freetown.

"Acting rapidly is crucial. We are reinforcing our support to partner organisations in Guinea and neighbouring countries to ensure urgently needed healthcare to those hit by the epidemic and to stop it from further expanding," said Kristalina Georgieva, EU Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response.

EU Commissioner for Development, Andris Piebalgs, commented: "The European Commission has been mobilising experts and equipment at short notice to provide quick help on the ground. Good coordination is key in the international response to this outbreak and this is why we are also setting up a network of EU and African health institutes to exchange know-how in tackling this terrible disease."

Following a commitment of €500 000 from last week, the European Union has increased its assistance to help the affected communities in Guinea and neighbouring countries to €1.1 million.

These new funds will allow Médecins Sans Frontières to scale up the on-going interventions in the field of clinical management (such as the isolation of patients and psychosocial support), the tracing of suspected cases and the training and supply of personal protective equipment for health workers. Furthermore, the new funds will support the World Health Organization (WHO) in ensuring the epidemiological surveillance and providing medical supplies, equipment, transport logistics and health personnel.

Three EU humanitarian experts have been sent to Conakry and Monrovia to monitor the situation on the ground and liaise with local authorities and partners.

On 26 March six European specialists of the European Mobile Lab project (EMLab) for dangerous infectious diseases arrived in Gueckedou, Guinea, with a mobile laboratory unit. This consists of easily transportable equipment for high security virus manipulation packed in boxes. It will substantially enhance the available capacity for rapid analyses of samples and confirmation of Ebola cases, reducing the number of un-diagnosed cases and preventing the further spread of the disease.

The EU is closely following the latest developments with its Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). This has just issued a second Rapid Risk Assessment stating that the risk for EU citizens travelling or living in the affected countries remains "low", and giving a series of recommendations on prevention.

This is the first Ebola virus outbreak registered in West Africa and has killed over 100 people in Guinea and Liberia.

(C) Politico 15/04/14