EU launches emergency medical corps

2016-02-15 17:08
People walk past a billboard reading "Ebola must go" in Monrovia, Liberia .(Abbas Dulleh, AP)

People walk past a billboard reading "Ebola must go" in Monrovia, Liberia .(Abbas Dulleh, AP)

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Brussels - The European Union launched an emergency medical corps on Monday to respond to future disease outbreaks, after struggling to react quickly to the Ebola crisis that began in late 2013.

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa killed more than 11 300 people and infected 28 500, according to the World Health Organisation, as it spread from Guinea to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria.

The EU ran into difficulties in responding to the haemorrhagic fever, with various logistical challenges hampering its effort to deliver help to the countries most in need.

As a result, Germany and France proposed the establishment of "white helmets", medical experts and healthcare workers to respond to disease outbreaks. This laid the groundwork for the EU programme unveiled on Monday.

"The aim of the European Medical Corps is to create a much faster and more efficient EU response to health crises when they occur," said EU Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Christos Stylianides.

"We need to learn the lessons from the Ebola response; a key difficulty was mobilising medical teams," he added.

The European Medical Corps will include emergency medical and public health teams, mobile biosafety laboratories, evacuation capacities, medical assessment experts and logistical support teams, according to the European Commission.

The teams can be mobilised for "any type of emergency with health consequences, at short notice", it said in a statement. Member states can opt out of individual deployments.

So far, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Luxembourg, Germany, Spain, Sweden and The Netherlands have contributed teams and equipment to the voluntary programme.

Read more on:    eu  |  ebola  |  health  |  aid

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