UN’s Ebola response plan 30 days in: positive steps, but Ebola crisis far from over

Africa, Emergencies, General, Humanitarian Advocacy, Media Releases, News article written on the 31 Oct 2014

Today marks the half way point in the UN’s 60 day Ebola response plan to bring the outbreak under control by the end of November and while progress is being made, more needs to be done to contain the disease before this window closes.

In the 30 days since October 1 we have seen some positive and encouraging steps. Pledges to the UN appeal have reached almost $1 billion and several nations have offered military and other support, and the World Health Organization said yesterday that the rate of Ebola infections in Liberia appears to be declining.

But Oxfam Chief Executive Helen Szoke said while these developments brought a sense of hope, the crisis was far from over.

“Huge gaps in the number of laboratories, burial teams and hospital supplies and beds remain, and more foreign medical teams are needed. Burial teams need more support and equipment to do their jobs safely, and local staff need proper training to be able to address misconceptions around the Ebola and teach families how to protect themselves,” Dr Szoke said.

“These gaps cannot be filled without the appropriate skills, knowledge and personnel – but they are in short supply. The lack of a reliable medical evacuation service and imposed quarantines are making it difficult for foreign aid workers to provide the support required to keep the response on track.

“The $18 million in assistance provided by the Australian Government to date will make a significant impact on the ground, but funding alone will not meet the urgent need for more capable personnel, including medical and military, in order to break transmission rates and halt the spread of the disease,” Dr Szoke said.

“We urge the government to push for an urgent resolution to the issues of access to treatment and medical evacuation for Australian humanitarian workers, should they become infected.”

Oxfam is working in West Africa to prevent the spread of Ebola both by improving access to water, cleaning equipment and protective clothing, and by talking with communities about Ebola and offering them support and information to try to prevent further infections.

So far our preventative work has directly reached almost half a million people in Liberia and Sierra Leone. We have also indirectly reached more than 2.3 million people via our radio messages, TV shows, and educational posters so that they better understand the virus, know how they can protect themselves and what they should do if they start showing symptoms so that the infection can be better contained.

With the number of cases is doubling every 20 days and the World Health Organisation warning that there could be 10,000 new cases of Ebola per week by the end of the year if strong measures are not taken, it is vital governments, the corporate sector and the public get behind this response. Oxfam has launched a global appeal for donations to fund its Ebola response work.

“The virus can be stopped through containment, treatment and prevention,” Dr Szoke said.

To support Oxfam’s Ebola Appeal call 1800 034 034 or visit www.oxfam.org.au/ebola

For interviews or more information, please contact Angus Hohenboken on 0428 367318 or angush@oxfam.org.au