The European Commission has allocated €1 million to fight the spread of epidemics in West Africa.
“Epidemics are more frequent in West Africa than anywhere else in the world. 20 percent of the world’s epidemic alerts occur in the region. The major objective of this new European Commission humanitarian assistance is to reduce the suffering and the number of deaths caused by epidemics,” stated an EU media release.
Epidemics pose great risks to the health, lives and livelihoods of many people in the region with the increasing danger of cross-border infection.
The Commission funds permit specialist agencies to take early and effective action to prevent initial outbreaks from escalating into large scale epidemics.
Similar humanitarian aid in 2004, to 2007 allowed rapid responses to outbreaks of cholera, meningitis, yellow fever, hepatitis and measles.
In the case of meningitis, for example, the EU report disclosed, “the risk is that even when the disease is diagnosed early and adequate therapy provided, 5% to 10% of patients will die, typically within 24-48 hours of the onset of symptoms.”
Pointing out that among individuals who survive, up to 20% can have permanent brain damage.
“These facts alone call for a prompt humanitarian response,” maintained the report
This new funding is channeled through the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO), which comes under the responsibility of Commissioner Louis Michel.
The €1 million will be used to support projects implemented through operational partners, including specialized United Nations’ agencies and non-governmental relief organizations.
The European Commission has been supporting emergency operations to address outbreaks of communicable diseases throughout the world for many years.
In West Africa alone, almost €6 million has been allocated since 2004.
These funds enabled the immunization of hundreds of thousands of people over the years.
In addition to the fight against epidemics, the European Commission Humanitarian Aid department has provided a further €130 million worth of humanitarian aid to West Africa in 2007 and 2008 alone to help meet the basic needs of the most vulnerable.
These funds are allocated to help combat acute malnutrition in the Sahel region, improve access to safe drinking water, to basic health services and food, in areas stricken by conflict, and provide protection for the most vulnerable.
The European Commission is one of the largest humanitarian donors in the world. Since its Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO) was set up in 1992, it has financed coordinated relief operations in more than 100 countries outside the European Union.
The Commission provides relief assistance that goes directly to the people in distress, irrespective of their nationality, religion, gender or ethnic origin.