Ebola at risk of donor fatigue

The deadly disease of Ebola was in danger of becoming a forgotten tragedy, confined to some of the poorest places on the planet, an international conference heard.

Ebola at risk of donor fatigue

Donor-fatigue had set in with much of the money promised failing to materialise, and amid unprecedented demands from the wars in Syria, Southern Sudan and Iraq, warned the head of GOAL, Barry Andrews in Brussels.

Liberian president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, called for a ‘Marshal plan’ for the area and was supported by Ireland’s Minister for Development, Seán Sherlock, the first foreign minister to visit the region last October.

The UN said the spread of the disease had slowed down considerably. Liberia reported just one case the week before last but there were 63 in Sierra Leone and 34 in Guinea. There have been more than 9,600 deaths and 24,000 cases of the disease.

President Sirleaf said she believed a regional approach was needed but it required a lot of support from outside. “This will require significant resources, perhaps even a Marshall Plan”, she said, referring to the US aid to help Europe recover after the second world war.

Minister Sherlock told the meeting that while the first aim would be to bring the number of Ebola cases to zero as soon as possible, they had to also concentrate on resolving the secondary effects of the crisis - including tackling corruption.

“This includes access to education, child and maternal health and potential food insecurity. The longer-term aspects of social and economic reconstruction must also be addressed so that progress made in previous years is not irretrievably lost”.

Ireland is one of just three countries with a resident ambassador in Sierra Leone - Sinéad Walsh - and is a key partner country for Ireland’s aid programme. Ireland provided €18.5 million to the affected countries in West Africa directly and through NGOs and €6 million for treatment facilities in Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Mr Andrews praised Minister Sherlock and said that Ambassador Walsh was “a human dynamo” in the region in tackling Ebola.

Getting to zero cases would be as difficult as getting to the present stage but new strategies had to be home grown and based around the local communities.

“One of the key purposes for this meeting was to bring Ebola back on the agenda and get governments to recommit. If we take our eye off the ball now the disease could become endemic in the region and could flare again at any time - we would be in a permanent state of international vigilance”.

The EU - the Commission and the member states - have contributed more than €1.2 billion for the battle against the disease. A funding conference will be held later in the year to raise the €1.2 bn the UN says will be needed - although much of what was pledged by other parts of the world have failed to materialise so far.

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