G20 must heed call to action in fight against killer Ebola virus

Africa, Emergencies, General, Humanitarian Advocacy, Media Releases, News article written on the 15 Nov 2014

World leaders taking their seats at the G2O Brisbane Summit today must heed the call to pull together and act now to stop Ebola, before it’s too late.

With just fifteen days left of the UN window to get the killer disease under control, members of the public today joined with aid and human rights organisations to urge the G20 to take decisive action.

A group of Oxfam and Save the Children staff and volunteers drove the message home this morning at Riverside Park in Brisbane, sending a rallying call dressed as frontline Ebola health workers carrying ticking clocks to highlight the urgency of the situation.

The voices of the public joined the call via a petition that saw more than 165,000 signatures from across the globe delivered to G20 leaders. The joint agency petition, run by Save the Children, Oxfam, Amnesty International, Water Aid and Plan International, calls on G20 countries, including Australia, to “show real commitment and leadership” and “swiftly ensure all the personnel, equipment and funding required to halt the outbreak”.‎

Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Helen Szoke said leaders must seize the opportunity to work together to resolve the crisis.

“There are 15 days left of the UN’s 60 day window, but for the people of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea it feels more like fifteen minutes to midnight,” Dr Szoke said. “This is a chance to stop Ebola in its tracks, and it must not be missed.”

The calls on the G20 leaders come as the deadly Ebola virus continues to tear through West Africa killing up to 70 per cent of those infected. Of the required 4,707 beds in Ebola treatment centres in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, only 22 per cent were operational, with the World Health Organisation pointing to a lack of foreign medical teams.

Save the Children Australia CEO Paul Ronalds called upon those countries who are yet to contribute their fair share of funding and desperately needed health professionals to act urgently.

“Whilst Australia has made good strides to step up to the Ebola challenge, the G20 must pull together this weekend to finish the job,” Mr Ronalds said. “Our frontline teams are seeing firsthand the devastation this killer disease is inflicting on children, families and entire health systems. As well as much needed funds, all countries must do everything they can to get medical personnel on the ground to join this fight.”

The aid agencies emphasised that the Ebola outbreak was not only a health crisis, but an economic crisis as well. The World Bank has warned that if the virus spreads to neighbouring countries, the economic cost could be between $27 billion and $32 billion by the end of next year. As major players on the world economic and political stages, G20 leaders must take urgent action now to contain this threat to the global economy.

For interviews please contact:

Oxfam – Angus Hohenboken 0428 367 318

Save the Children – Evan Schuurman 0400 546 942