Oxfam welcomes the Australian Government’s announcement that it has secured an agreement guaranteeing medical treatment and evacuation arrangements for Australian citizens responding to the outbreak in West Africa, as well as $24 million worth of additional support to respond to the crisis.
The measures include a plan for Australian private medical services firm, Aspen Medical to manage and staff a 100 bed Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU) in Sierra Leone. Under the proposed arrangement, Aspen Medical will be responsible for all services provided by the ETU, including staffing, which could see Australian paid volunteers deployed to the region.
The Government also announced that an agreement has been reached with the United Kingdom to ensure any Australian responder requiring medical treatment or evacuation for Ebola would have the same access to these services as a British citizen.
Oxfam Chief Executive Helen Szoke said today’s announcement was a welcome step towards a more significant Australian response to what is an unprecedented crisis in West Africa.
“Given the urgent need to rapidly scale up the response in order to achieve the UN’s plan to rein in the outbreak by the end of December, today’s welcome announcement has not come a moment too soon,” Dr Szoke said.
“The deployment of healthcare professionals to manage a 100 bed Ebola Treatment Unit will make a valuable contribution to the international response, however in order to respond holistically to this crisis, there is also a critical need for support functions such as logistics. We would therefore urge the government to continue to monitor the need for additional logistical and technical support to aid the health response, and to consider the deployment of Australian military to support these efforts.
Dr Szoke said while Oxfam very rarely calls for the delivery of humanitarian assistance by military personnel, in this case the military still has the best standing capacity to rapidly respond in this situation.
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