Tonio Borg: EU has "moral obligation" to help countries affected by Ebola outbreak

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A girl walks past a slogan painted on a wall reading "Stop Ebola" in Monrovia on August 31, 2014. ©BELGA_AFP_D.FAGET  Europe should do more to help tackle Ebola, according to health commissioner Tonio Borg ©BELGA_AFP_D.FAGET

The EU has a “moral obligation” to help the countries affected by the Ebola outbreak, said health commissioner Tonio Borg. Speaking during a meeting with the Parliament's public health committee on 3 September, he added: "The more we contain it, the less the chances are for the disease to reach Europe." MEPs agreed more needed to be done, but highlighted there were budget limitations. They also underlined the importance of financing research.


“The risk of this disease spreading to Europe remains low," Mr Borg said. The main reasons for this are the type of infection, the EU's higher hygiene standards and members states' preparedness to contain cases that may arise. However, the commissioner added that although the EU is prepared, it needs to remain alert.


Limited resources


Peter Liese, a German member of the EPP group, said helping the affected countries is essential "because otherwise we would have a massive catastrophe”.


Matthias Groote, a German member of the S&D group, added: "Europe has to stand by and help and therefore we need money." He said that the EU's budget was tight and questioned how the necessary funds would be found.


Mr Borg announced that the Commission expected to increase funding by moving part of the funds available under development to humanitarian assistance. The EU has allocated €11.9 million in humanitarian aid to the epidemic since March 2014. The Commission has also deployed experts and equipment.


Financing research


Some MEPs stressed the need to support the funding of non commercially viable research. Currently research on the Ebola vaccine is being done in Oxford University, which is going to carry out human trials in the coming days. Catherine Bearder, a UK member of the ALDE group, said that this research “was only possible because the institute has received the funding from the EU". 


Flights ban


Mr Borg said that a flight ban could aggravate the problem as humanitarian assistance and personnel are not be able to go in into the affect areas. “We need to isolate the disease, not the countries," he said.


The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is the largest outbreak in terms of cases, deaths and geographic coverage ever recorded for the disease. Up until 26 august 2014, it was responsible for causing more than 3,000 cases and 1,552 deaths.

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