Switzerland steps up response to Ebola epidemic in West Africa

Bern, 12.09.2014 - Switzerland is stepping up its aid in the fight against the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. Swiss Humanitarian Aid is pledging an additional CHF 2 million to fund various direct measures in Liberia.

In view of the continuing spread of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, Swiss Humanitarian Aid has decided to allocate an additional CHF 2 million to efforts on the ground to combat the virus and consequences of the epidemic. The extra funding will be used to support Médecins sans frontières Switzerland (MSF) and the World Food Programme (WFP). CHF 1 million will go to a MSF emergency programme for north Liberia. The remaining CHF 1 million will be used by WFP for a regional emergency operation to fend off the hunger crisis triggered by the epidemic in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

The amount of CHF 2 million is being pledged in addition to the CHF 1.65 million already donated by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) in direct response to the Ebola crisis. The total amount of financial support provided by Switzerland since the first incidence of the disease was reported in March 2014 thus stands at CHF 3.65 million.

Following a request by the Liberian authorities, Swiss Humanitarian Aid sent 14 tonnes of medical supplies to Monrovia (Liberia) at the beginning of September. In total, 31,000 bottles of hand disinfectant, 300,000 protective gloves, 100,000 masks, 200 body bags, 6,840 intravenous drips and 3,000 rehydration solutions were handed over to the Liberian authorities.

Since the outbreak of the Ebola virus in March 2014 in Guinea Conakry, the SDC has been closely monitoring the situation from its programme office in Liberia and through its network of partners. The latest developments underscore the urgent need for additional medical supplies and staff to combat the epidemic. As part of its response, Swiss Humanitarian Aid activated an agreement with the University Hospitals of Geneva (HUG) at the start of this month, enabling it to send a joint needs- assessment mission to West Africa. Dr Olivier Hagon, head of the Medical expert group of the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit (SHA) and Prof. Laurent Kaiser, Senior Consultant in Infectious Diseases at HUG and Head of the Laboratory for Virology, which is the national reference centre for emerging viral infections, returned from their mission earlier this week. The results of their needs assessment are currently being analysed and evaluated.

At international level, the World Health Organisation (WHO) is coordinating efforts to fight and prevent the spread of the Ebola epidemic. Switzerland's financial support to WHO in 2014 is budgeted at approximately CHF 12 million in total.

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