EU Ministers Huddle Up Against Ebola

EU Ministers Huddle Up Against EbolaEU Ministers Huddle Up Against Ebola

European foreign ministers gathered in Luxembourg Monday to try and formulate a coordinated EU response to the spread of the Ebola virus amid warnings the crisis has reached a “tipping point”.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said ahead of the talks that the bloc should consider sending “a civilian EU mission” to West Africa, the focal point of the epidemic.

“This would offer a platform to member states” to send medical staff to the region, AFP quoted Steinmeier as saying at a health forum in Berlin.

One EU diplomat said Britain -- which already has a navy ship bound for Sierra Leone laden with medical staff and supplies -- hoped to “galvanize EU action on Ebola”.

 Tipping Point

“There is a real sense that this is a tipping point and we must get to grips with it now,” said the diplomat. “If we can deal with it in the country, we don’t have to deal with it at home.”

Another diplomat said there are plans for three nations to share efforts to spearhead global aid to the worst-hit countries: the United States for Liberia, Britain for Sierra Leone and France for Guinea.

A global UN appeal for nearly $1 billion (€785 billion) has so far fallen short, with only $385.9 million given by governments and agencies, and a further $225.8 million promised.

The worst-ever outbreak of the deadly virus has so far killed more than 4,555 people as of October 14 out of a total of 9,216 cases registered in seven countries, the Geneva-based World Health Organization said. Close to 2,500 of the deaths were registered in the worst-hit nation of Liberia.

Isolated cases among health workers in the US and Europe have sparked fears that the epidemic could turn global and prompted Western countries to ramp up their response.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said a generation of Africans were at risk of “being lost to economic catastrophe” because of the crisis, warning that the “time for talking or theorizing is over”.

The virus, for which there is currently no licensed treatment or vaccine, spreads via contact with bodily fluids.

Some countries have managed to get a handle on the outbreak, with Africa’s most populous nation Nigeria expected to be declared free of Ebola on Monday after 42 days without registering any new infections.