NFPs Cautiously Welcome Ebola Plan
6 November 2014 at 8:38 am
The Not for Profit sector has welcomed the Federal Government’s announcement that Australia will support medical volunteers travelling to West Africa to help combat the deadly Ebola virus but cautioned that more needs to be done.
Australia will commit an additional $24 million to help international efforts to fight Ebola in West Africa including up to $20 million to staff a 100-bed Ebola treatment centre in Sierra Leone.
The Government has contracted a medical services firm, Aspen Medical, as the preferred supplier to support the provision of the Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU).
The Government said the Ebola treatment facility will be staffed mainly by local health care workers, supported by a contingent of international staff, including Australian volunteers.
“The Government has said consistently that it would not deploy Australians to Ebola-affected countries without a credible plan for their treatment or medical evacuation,” Prime Minister Tony Abbott said.
“In recent weeks, the Government has discussed the evolving situation, including measures to treat health workers, with the United Kingdom, the United States and others.
“Australia has now received credible assurances for in-country treatment and medical evacuation for Australian volunteers who provide health care in West Africa.
“In addition to this facility, Australia will provide $2 million to RedR Australia to fund the deployment of technical experts to non-frontline roles in the United Nations Ebola response.
“Consistent with the Government’s long-standing priority to keep our country and our region safe from Ebola, we will also provide an initial package of up to $2 million to train health officials in Papua New Guinea, Timor-Leste and the Pacific Islands to prepare for a potential Ebola outbreak.”
Australia will also contribute to the development of a World Health Organisation regional response plan and a study on the risks and possible impacts of an Ebola outbreak in the region.
World Vision Australia’s Chief Executive, Tim Costello said with the world in a race against time to contain the Ebola outbreak, it’s encouraging to see the Australian Government demonstrating ongoing commitment to this issue.
But Costello also warned that far more needs to be done to tackle this unprecedented crisis.
The international community must respond in a number of ways to effectively prevent and contain the spread of Ebola, he said.
“The Government has helped pave the way for Australian volunteers to join Ebola response efforts in West Africa, through obtaining credible assurances for them to receive in-country treatment and medical evacuation as required,” Costello said.
“I would like to acknowledge the efforts of the Government in seeking assurances that Australians volunteering in Ebola-affected countries, who put their lives at risk, will receive treatment and evacuation as required.
“While front-line medical assistance is essential, so too are measures to effectively prevent and contain the spread of Ebola. It’s critical that we are also training health care workers in prevention and control measures, implementing community-based awareness and prevention campaigns and strengthening fragile healthcare systems that have been strained by the scale of the outbreak.”
World Vision said it is scaling up its response to the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone, with a major campaign to raise awareness in affected communities about how they can identify the symptoms of Ebola, prevent the spread of the deadly virus and seek treatment if needed.
“We are also providing food and other practical and psychological support to children who have lost their parents to the virus,” Costello said.
“World Vision has already distributed a planeload of five million items of protective clothing and equipment to health centres across Sierra Leone, and is training 750 health workers in prevention and control measures.”
Aid agency peak body, the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) said it’s pleased to see the Government has secured the necessary agreements to ensure appropriate medical treatment of Australians working in West African countries affected by Ebola.
“This enables Australia to scale up its personnel response to the outbreak,” Executive Director of ACFID, Marc Purcell said.
“Despite the delayed action, it is good to see Australia play its role as a principled humanitarian donor, looking not just to our immediate region but providing support to humanitarian crises where need exists.
“Australian NGOs are working across the Western African region, helping communities respond to, and prevent, further outbreaks of Ebola.
“We hope all donors remain vigilant on the need to respond appropriately to the unprecedented scale of this, and other crises, around the world.”
Under the new Federal Government arrangements Aspen Medical says it will be responsible for all services provided in the ETU, including clinical and logistics. This service will be coordinated as part of the United Kingdom’s efforts for Ebola treatment in Sierra Leone to treat Sierra Leone citizens that have contracted Ebola.
Aspen Medical already has a presence in North West Africa where it has been running a clinic in Liberia for several months. Aspen Medical is also known for its healthcare service to the Australian Government in the Solomon Islands and the emergency surgery it conducted to save the life of President Ramos Horta after an attempted assassination in Timor Leste.
Chief Executive of Aspen Medical, Glenn Keys, says the firm has had more than a decade’s experience working with Government and NGOs (non-government organisations) bringing essential healthcare services following natural disasters or in countries emerging from conflict.
Keys said 200 Australian health workers had applied already to assist in the fight against ebola in West Africa.
Many Australian Not for Profit aid organisations are already have staff on the ground and are running appeals to equip healthcare personnel, deliver lifesaving supplies, support prevention work, and provide care for children left orphaned by the disease. They include;
Australian Lutheran World Service
Australian Red Cross
PLAN International Australia
Save the Children Australia
World Vision Australia