The Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa has been underrated by the international community and now constitutes a challenge to global security, say MEPs in a resolution voted on Thursday. As the affected countries face socio-economic collapse, the deployment of military assets under the UN flag should be considered and access to existing treatments speeded up, they add.
There is an urgent need for funds but also for operational capacity, including qualified human resources and logistic materials, says the resolution, which was passed by a show of hands. The use of military and civil defence assets under the leadership of the UN Secretary-General should be considered, MEPs say.
Countries on the verge of economic collapse
MEPs underline that the affected countries already suffer shortages of food and clean water, and face economic collapse due to the disruption of trade, cancellation of commercial flights and loss of harvests caused by the pandemic. Social unrest, people fleeing affected areas, and chaos is only spreading the virus further. Moreover, the outbreak has revealed the serious inadequacy of these countries’ health systems, which urgently need support, they add.
Coordinate plans, coordinate flights
The European Commission is asked to assess the needs and draw up country-specific plans in order to determine and coordinate demand for and deployment of health personnel, mobile laboratories, equipment, protective clothing and treatment centres. EU Member states should coordinate flights and establish dedicated air bridges, and the African Union should be encouraged to consider a holistic action plan as the crisis becomes more complex and political, says the text.
Medical research and access to treatments
Clinical trials of existing candidate treatments against the Ebola virus should be advanced, MEPs say. However, they call for a clear distinction to be drawn between treatment and vaccination tests – clinical trials of the latter should respect the relevant WHO rules in force.
Since the Ebola outbreak was officially declared on 22 March 2014 in Guinea, it has spread to four other countries (Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Senegal), infecting almost 4,000 people and causing more than 2,000 deaths. According to the World Health Organization, the number of patients could grow to over 20,000 over the next three months.
Procedure: Non-legislative resolution