EU airlift to Ebola affected West Africa underway


The first of three Boeing 747 cargo aircraft, arranged by European Union (EU) funding, will today take off from Amsterdam carrying 100 tons of emergency equipment destined for Freetown, Sierra Leone.

The cargo flights will account for a quarter of the four million Euro funding allocated by the European body to UNICEF. All flights will carry personal protection equipment, including masks and gloves, as well as medicines and hygiene supplies. All equipment will go to the three West African countries worst affected by Ebola – Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.

The remaining three million Euro will help in setting up of a medical evacuation system, co-ordinated by the ERCC (the EU Emergency Response Co-ordination Centre), that will enable international workers in West Africa diagnosed with Ebola virus disease (EVD) to be evacuated in less than 48 hours by plane to European hospitals equipped to deal with the disease.

The ERCC is co-ordinating the transportation of aid, equipment and personnel to hotspots in the countries affected by the disease. European countries such as the UK, France, Austria and Belgium have already made use of the mechanism, providing field hospitals, ambulances, sanitation products, medical isolation equipment and experts to the affected region.

This initiative is funded from €30 million in humanitarian aid announced by the President of the EU, José Manuel Barroso, in New York last month during a High Level Meeting in response to the Ebola Virus Disease Outbreak convened by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon.

The European Commission has been scaling up its response to the epidemic since March and has so far pledged €180 million to help the countries affected by the Ebola virus (Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Nigeria). Humanitarian experts, mobile laboratories and teams of specialists from the European Mobile Laboratory project for dangerous infectious diseases have been deployed in the region, providing diagnostic support, monitoring the situation and liaising with partner organisations and local authorities. Funding will also cover the reinforcement of local and regional healthcare capacities and budget support to the affected countries.

The European Commission is also working closely with the EU Member States within the Health Security Committee to keep them informed about the latest developments and secure the synchronisation of measures. The Health Security Committee has produced advice for all travellers to the affected countries, available in all EU languages.

The European Union Civil Protection Mechanism (EUCPM) facilitates co-operation in disaster response, preparedness and prevention among 31 European states (EU-28 plus the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Iceland and Norway). The European Commission manages the Mechanism through the Emergency Response Coordination Centre. Operating 24/7, the ERCC monitors risks and emergencies around the world and serves as an information and coordination hub during emergencies. Through the Civil Protection Mechanism, the Commission also provides financial support to transport operations.