Cameron pledges £80m more for Ebola

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Published: Friday 24th October 2014 by The News Editor

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David Cameron has pledged a further £80 million for the fight against Ebola, as he threw down the gauntlet to fellow European leaders to step up their own responses to the killer disease.

The Prime Minister announced his new pledge – which brings Britain’s total contribution to £205 million – at a Brussels summit at which Mr Cameron identified Ebola as one of the two big risks facing Europe, alongside the danger of a return to economic slowdown.

The UK contribution now amounts to more than a third of Europe’s assistance to the three west African countries at the heart of the epidemic – Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.

As the 28 EU leaders discussed the outbreak over dinner at the European Council summit, Mr Cameron told them: “We can all do more. We should all do more.”

Even without the new money, the UK was already giving as much as 19 other EU nations combined, he pointed out.

And even the five million euro (£4 million) donation by furniture store Ikea was more than had been given by 18 of the member-states, including Ireland, Spain, Luxembourg and Poland.

Arriving at the summit, Mr Cameron warned that the virus could spread to Europe if it was not stopped in its tracks in the African states where the deadly outbreak began earlier this year.

“It is very important we take action at source in west Africa,” said the Prime Minister. “Britain has been leading the way in terms of Sierra Leone and we have already pledged £125 million, we have got military and other forces going to that country to help.

“But we need other countries to do more.”

A UK source suggested that the slowness of some European states to respond to the emergency might be down to the absence of historical links to the area. Unlike the UK, US and France – which are respectively taking the lead in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea – many EU states do not feel “massive ties” with west Africa, said the source.

The World Health Organisation has reported a total of 9,936 cases of Ebola, including 4,877 deaths, by October 19 – the vast majority of them in the three afflicted African countries.

Some £50 million of the new UK money will go towards rolling out 200 Ebola care units in local areas of Sierra Leone, where individuals who fear they may have picked up the infection can be checked and put into isolation. Another £20 million will go into the trust fund set up by UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon, and £10 million into support for burials of Ebola victims.

Experts have said that a key obstacle to eradicating the virus has been the unwillingness of relatives to give up the bodies of their loved ones without performing traditional burial rites, which increase the risk of spread.

Further pledges at the summit were expected to bring the total EU contribution above the 700 million euro (£552 million) mark, but it is not thought likely to reach the one billion euro (£789m) target set by Mr Cameron last week. European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso announced 24.4 million euros (£19.3 million) of new EU funding to speed up medical research into treatments and vaccines, warning that the world was in “a race against time on Ebola”.

Leaders were also expected to agree a 40% target for EU reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases by 2030, in preparation for next year’s international climate change conference in Paris.

Britain backs the 40% figure, but insists the agreement must be “flexible, fair and cost-effective” and should not tie individual countries to precise targets on the proportion of energy derived from renewable sources.

“We think it’s important that countries can go for their own energy mix,” said the UK source.

David Cameron also urged fellow leaders to press ahead with reforms to their economies, warning that that Britain was not “immune” to the impact of sluggish economic performance elsewhere in Europe.

“Britain’s economy is growing well, we are creating jobs, seeing new businesses start up,” said the Prime Minister.

“But we are not immune to economic problems elsewhere in Europe. There are some worries and concerns about the state of other European economies, so I will be wanting to be hearing about plans others have to make it easier to employ people, to deregulate and to reform to make sure the European economies grow so the British economy can continue.”

Diane Sheard, UK director at development campaign One said: “One welcomes the UK’s announcement that it will pledge a further £80 million to the fight against Ebola supporting vital frontline medical services in Sierra Leone.

“David Cameron has thrown down the gauntlet to other European leaders. They must now step up their responses-both financial resources and human capacity – and must ensure that new commitments are quickly translated into life-saving action on the ground.

“To prevent further outbreaks over the long term, it is paramount that British and EU funding is targeted at both stemming the immediate crisis and in rebuilding and strengthening the health systems of those countries – some of the world’s poorest – which are bearing the brunt of Ebola. People in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea have already counted the cost in human lives. This tragedy must not be repeated.”

Published: Friday 24th October 2014 by The News Editor

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