Nine of the G20 countries have failed to deliver adequate support in the fight against Ebola, and summit host Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is yet to grasp the full economic significance of the outbreak, Oxfam said today.
The UN has warned that medical teams are stretched as they try to treat and prevent the spread of Ebola, which has claimed almost 5,000 lives in West Africa. But analysis by Oxfam found nine countries have failed to provide their ‘fair share’ of money and medical support that should be expected given their size.
The international agency says that urgent action is needed to fill the gaps in the immediate response because the longer the battle against Ebola is waged on limited resources, the more costly it will be in terms of both lives and money. The World Bank has warned that if the virus spreads to neighbouring countries, the economic cost could be between US$27 billion (AUS$30.9b) and US$32 billion (AUS$36.6b) by the end of next year.
Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke urged all G20 countries to step up and said it was essential the response and long term economic recovery was among the world leaders’ top priorities.
“Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott says this is a health crisis, not an economic crisis. But in reality, it has both economic causes and consequences. We are already seeing a negative economic impact across the region with rising prices, lower household incomes and more poverty,” Dr Szoke said.
Oxfam says that if the G20 is to fulfil its ambition to protect the global economy, it cannot allow the economy of an entire region to be de-stabilised and must look at meeting the immediate needs of the emergency response and of a long-term recovery.
But four G20 countries – Argentina, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Turkey – are yet to make any contribution to the international response. Brazil, India, Mexico and Russia should be doing a lot more. Meanwhile, France should increase its efforts to provide an adequate leading response in Guinea, rapidly turning its pledges into aid.
“The window of opportunity to bring the spread of Ebola under control is closing fast. The G20 is in a prime position to provide the leadership and resources desperately needed. Some countries hiding behind the generosity of others is unacceptable if we are to tackle the immediate emergency and ensure the long-term recovery of the region,” Dr Szoke said.
Of the G20 countries, the US, UK and EU, followed by Canada, China and Germany have shouldered most responsibility. Oxfam says they must persuade other G20 countries to increase their efforts. While Australia, Italy, Japan, South Africa and South Korea have made welcome contributions, they are encouraged to do more in the face of continued and mounting needs.
Of the required 4,707 beds in Ebola treatment centres in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, only 22 per cent are operational, which the World Health Organisation says is due to a lack of foreign medical teams. Oxfam is calling on all G20 countries to take responsibility to manage at least one treatment centre each, which requires a medical team of between 25 and 35 people. All countries need to look at what more funding and resources they can offer to fill the current gaps and meet the additional cost of long-term recovery.
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