Switzerland steps up aid to fight Ebola epidemic in West Africa
Bern, 01.09.2014 - Switzerland is stepping up its aid to fight the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. Swiss Humanitarian Aid has committed an additional CHF 1 million to fund various direct operations in Liberia. A specially chartered plane will leave on Monday with 14 tonnes of medical supplies on board. In addition, the agreement between Swiss Humanitarian Aid and the University Hospitals of Geneva (HUG) has been activated. Two specialists will leave Switzerland on Monday on a mission to assess the needs on the ground.
In view of the continuing spread of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, Swiss Humanitarian Aid has decided to allocate an additional CHF 1 million to efforts on the ground to fight the virus. This additional funding will enable Swiss Humanitarian Aid to send relief supplies, to give financial support to the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service, and to second specialists to MSF, the WFP and the WHO.
The CHF 1 million is in addition to the total amount of CHF 650,000 already allocated to date by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) in direct response to the Ebola crisis. The overall total of Swiss aid allocated since the first outbreaks of the disease were detected in March 2014 thus stands at CHF 1.65 million.
Following a request by the Liberian authorities, a plane specially chartered by Swiss Humanitarian Aid will leave Zurich airport in the evening of Monday 1 September bound for Monrovia. In total, 14 tonnes of medical supplies, including 31,000 bottles of disinfectant for hands, 300,000 protective gloves, 100,000 masks, 200 body bags, 6,840 intravenous drips and 3,000 rehydration solutions will be received by SDC staff in Monrovia before being handed over to the Liberian authorities.
Ever since the outbreak of the Ebola virus was detected in Guinea in March 2014, the SDC has been monitoring closely the evolution of the epidemic from its programme office in Liberia and through its network of partners. Recent progression of the epidemic has underscored the urgent need for additional medical supplies and staff. As part of its response, Swiss Humanitarian Aid activated the agreement it has with the University Hospitals of Geneva (HUG) in order to send a joint mission to West Africa for a needs assessment. Dr Olivier Hagon, head of the medical specialist group within the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit (SHA) and Prof. Laurent Kaiser, chief physician of the Infectious Diseases Section of the HUG and head of the Laboratory for Virology, which is the national reference centre for emerging viral infections, will leave Switzerland on Monday for Liberia. The mission of the two specialists will be to protect the health of SDC staff on the ground, to carry out an assessment of the situation and to identify the operation's next steps. The seconding of SHA specialists to other partner organisations, including the WHO, MSF, the WFP and UNICEF, is also being considered.
At the international level, the World Health Organisation (WHO) is coordinating efforts to fight and prevent the spread of the Ebola epidemic. Switzerland's total contribution to the WHO in 2014 amounted to approximately CHF 12 million.
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