The European Union has nearly doubled its assistance to combat the raging Ebola virus in West Africa to 1 billion euros.
The heads of state and government of the 28-nation bloc agreed upon the move at their two-day summit concluded in Brussels on Friday.
“EU member nations pledged at the meeting to increase their financial assistance to continue to provide emergency assistance for the population affected by the Ebola epidemic and to support a “sustained, coordinated and increased” effort to curb the spread of the deadly virus,” a joint statement said.
Before providing 1 billion euros (USD 1.26 billion), EU leaders had pledged nearly 600 million euros to pay for medical staff and facilities in the worst affected countries – Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, where some 4,900 people have died of the disease.
In addition to the financial assistance, the EU nations also agreed to increase the deployment of medical and support staff in the affected region.
While expressing their “deep concern” over the continuing spread, the member states said that the scale of the epidemic is a threat not only to the economy and stability of the affected countries, but also to the region as a whole.
They called upon the EU high representative on foreign affairs and the European Commission to develop a package of measures addressing the wider political, security and economic implications of the Ebola crisis in West Africa.
EU member nations and the European Commission pledged to provide appropriate care for international health workers within available resources to receive the treatment they needed, including thorough medical evacuation.
They also agreed on the use of the Emergency Response Coordination Centre to promote the deployment of voluntary health experts.
They shared the view that helping West Africa to cope with the crisis is the best way to prevent a serious outbreak of the disease elsewhere in the world.
However, in the wake of the first confirmed case of Ebola infections in Europe, the state of preparedness within the EU and further efforts to protect EU countries and their citizens must be given top priority, the statement said.
They called for precautionary measures to reduce the risk of contagion, including coordinated preventive actions within the EU such as sharing of information and best practices, training of health professionals and entry screenings if necessary.