Global Aid Agency Rejects Australia’s Ebola Cash
2 October 2014 at 11:19 am
Global aid agency Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) has declined a cash offer from the Federal Government to fight Ebola in West Africa instead urging Australia to send trained emergency medical personnel.
The charity said it had declined the offer of $2.5 million as the Ebola response from Australia, asking the country instead to deploy desperately-needed medical teams.
Known by its French initials MSF (Medecins Sans Frontieres) the charity said it had reached its logistical limitations and couldn't increase its assistance in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea – the three countries most affected by the epidemic.
"MSF simply does not have the capacity to do this job alone. We are already turning people away from our clinics which have been stretched beyond over capacity for weeks," it said in a statement.
"Australia must stop making excuses to join the fight against Ebola."
“The Australian Government must go beyond pledging financial aid to fight Ebola and immediately respond with a deployment of specialised civil and military capacity to affected countries in West Africa,” Executive Director of Médecins Sans Frontières Australia, Paul McPhun said.
“Médecins Sans Frontières cannot accept any donation of funds from the Australian Government. We have been asking countries, including Australia, to evaluate their emergency medical and logistics capacity and make a contribution beyond financial support for over two weeks now and we continue to urge them to do so.
“This money would be better spent providing capacity that Médecins Sans Frontières and other NGOs cannot supply.
“It is unacceptable that as a single private NGO, Médecins Sans Frontières is providing the bulk of isolation units and beds. Our teams have been overwhelmed for some time now, and are forced to turn away patients that are highly infectious. What is needed is a massive increase in personnel, equipment and logistical support that Médecins Sans Frontières alone cannot supply.
“We welcome the ambition of the new US Ebola response plan, which is the first serious large scale international ambition to address the disaster unfolding in West Africa. This latest pledge must be matched by action from other countries, including Australia.
“The situation on the ground is catastrophic. The Ebola outbreak is killing thousands of people. The infection rate doubles every three weeks.
“With some 6,000 people infected to date, and many thousands uncounted, if immediate action is not taken now to stop the spread there could be hundreds of thousands infected by the New Year, of which more than half will die.
“These are shocking statistics, yet still countries like Australia with the capacity to make a real difference on the ground are looking at each other to take responsibility, and are refusing to send their own personnel to help. Facing this reality today, it is unthinkable that Australia is waiting for an invitation from the World Health Organization to act.
“As a member of the UN Security Council Australia voted ten days ago for a resolution calling on all UN member States to mobilise resources and expertise to West Africa, and yet is not responding with the kind of action the resolution explicitly calls for.”
He said Australian deployment of even a small number of trained staff would have a very significant impact.
“Even a dozen trained staff who could oversee local teams to manage an isolation centre, help case finding and outbreak control measures would save thousands of lives today,” he said.
“If implemented swiftly, the deployment of new Ebola management centres, qualified staff and health personnel training could begin reversing the trend of the fight we have collectively been losing against Ebola.”
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told Federal Parliament during Question Time on Wednesday that Australia would not put its health workers at risk of contracting the Ebola virus in West Africa when there is no safe evacuation plan.
She said the flying time between West Africa and Australia was approximately 30 hours which was far too long for a patient who may contract the deadly disease to receive proper care.
“Australia also didn't possess a military aeroplane capable of evacuating Ebola sufferers,” Bishop told Parliament.