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Stylianides says he will travel to Ebola-hit West Africa next month

Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management European Commissioner Christos Stylianides

By Staff Reporter

Incoming Cypriot EU Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Christos Stylianides who was last week appointed the bloc’s Ebola ‘czar’ plans to visit stricken areas in Africa in the second week of November, news portal EurActive has reported.

Speaking to the press at the EU Emergency Response Coordination Centre (RCC) in Brussels, Stylianides, who officially takes up his post on November 1, said the Ebola epidemic threatened to extend far beyond Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

According to the reports from Brussels, he said the international community was being put to the test and where applicable, it should admit where it had gone wrong, he said.

“Let us be sincere. In the case of the Ebola disease, the international community, all of us, underestimated the danger,” he said.

Stylianides said the EU had been one of the first to respond to the crisis, offering some €800 million in aid to battle the outbreak, though he said more needed to be done, and in a more coordinated way.

“The Ebola epidemic is putting the entire international community to the test,” he said. “The lives of thousands of people in Western Africa rest in our ability to take action today.”

Stylianides praised both local and international humanitarian workers who had taken the risk in order to help those countries badly in need of assistance.  He said that of those who had heeded the call, 443 had been infected with the deadly disease and almost half of those had died. There are some 2,000 Western volunteers currently on the ground, he added.

Stylianides said he himself would travel to West Africa early next month in order to send a message to the rest of the world that isolation was not the solution. Stylianides also said he would work closely with other EU member states, and the rest of the international community including the UN and the US to drum up more support and expertise through the RCC in Brussels.

“We need to mobilise immediately at least 40,000 staff,” he said. This number would include between 2,000 and 3,000 from Western countries, he added. There was also a shortage of beds in affected areas, Stylianides said.

EurActive quoted Claus Sorensen, the Director General of the European Commission´s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) as saying that the number of volunteers was not a problem, but that those needed to be people with the right skills, but even they would need further training, he said.

He said that 4,000 Germans had volunteered to go to West Africa to fight Ebola, but after screening, only a very small number was accepted.

Sorensen said that it was important to use the human potential of the region and spoke of very intensive training programmes and ways of mobilising health workers in Nigeria, Togo, Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali and other countries.

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