The European Union secured 1 billion euros ($1.26 billion) to fight Ebola in West Africa on Friday, alleviating pressure from critics who say the 28-member bloc wasn’t doing enough to help stop the epidemic.
The EU had raised over half of its targeted goal before European leaders met Thursday for a meeting in Brussels, the AP reports. Britain led the final push when it pledged an additional 100 million euros ($126 million) late Thursday, but it wasn’t immediately clear which other countries made last-minute contributions.
“The epidemic is far from being contained and we need to step up our action,” European Commission President Jose Barroso told reporters in Brussels, according to Bloomberg News. “This is a multi-faceted threat that requires a coordinated response.”
The EU’s fundraising announcement followed confirmation Thursday of the first Ebola case in Mali, making it the sixth West African nation affected by the virus.
The EU has come under increased pressure to step up its support for affected countries. Last week, former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan said in an interview with the BBC that he was “bitterly disappointed” by the international community's response to Ebola.
“I point the finger of blame at the governments with capacity,” Mr. Annan said, adding that African nations could do a better job responding to the outbreak, too.
In addition to increasing its funding, the EU also appointed a coordinator to lead its efforts against the outbreak in West Africa. Christos Stylianides, a trained dental surgeon and European Parliament member from Cyprus, will become the EU’s commissioner for humanitarian affairs and crisis management on Nov. 1, Reuters reports.
From Mali, the BBC reports that the country's first Ebola patient is a two-year-old girl who recently arrived from Guinea. Malian health officials are monitoring dozens of people who have been in contact with her, including 10 health workers.
"The girl is still in the hospital in Kayes together with members of her family who might have been exposed to the virus," a Mali health ministry spokeswoman told CNN.
Kayes lies about 300 miles west of Mali’s capital, Bamako. The BBC reports that people in the capital are afraid, but that “life is carrying on as normal.”
A few people have stopped shaking hands but physically greeting people is an important part of life in Mali and for most this has not changed ...
With the support of the WHO, Mali's health system has been preparing for an outbreak of Ebola for several months. But there is a culture here of visiting people when they are sick to wish them a speedy recovery.
This will have to change if Ebola becomes more widespread.
In a report released Wednesday, the World Health Organization said Ebola had killed nearly 4,900 people worldwide and that it remains “persistent and widespread” in West Africa. The virus has infected nearly 10,000 people this year, almost all in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.
The WHO announced earlier this week that vaccine trials were expected to begin in West Africa in January.