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Nine of the G20 countries have failed to deliver adequate support in the fight against Ebola despite calls for more help and the fact they are the largest economies in the world, Oxfam says today.
The international agency warns that they have failed to provide their ‘fair share’ of money and medical support that should be expected given their size. Oxfam calls on them to step up at the G20 summit meeting in Brisbane this weekend.
The UN has warned that medical teams are stretched as they try to treat and prevent the spread of Ebola, which has claimed almost 5,000 lives in West Africa. Oxfam says that urgent action is needed to fill the gaps in the immediate response because the longer the battle against Ebola is waged on limited resources, the more costly it will be in terms of lives and money. The World Bank has warned that if the virus spreads to neighbouring countries, the economic cost could be between $27 billion and $32 billion by the end of next year.
Oxfam says that if the G20 is to fulfil its ambition to protect the global economy, it cannot allow the economy of an entire region to be de-stabilized and must look at meeting the immediate needs of the emergency response and of a long-term recovery.
But four G20 countries – Argentina, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Turkey - are yet to make any contribution to the international response. Brazil, India, Mexico and Russia should be doing a lot more. Meanwhile, France should increase its efforts to provide an adequate leading response in Guinea, rapidly turning its pledges into aid.
G20 must act now
Oxfam Executive Director Winnie Byanyima said: “The window of opportunity to bring the spread of Ebola under control is closing fast. The G20 is in prime position to provide the leadership and resources desperately needed. Hiding behind the generosity of others is unacceptable if we are to tackle the immediate emergency and ensure the long-term recovery of the region.”
The UN is aiming to reduce the transmission rate by December 1 by treating 70 percent of cases and ensuring 70 percent of burials are done safely. Oxfam warns this could be missed if concerted action from the G20 is not taken. While Oxfam welcomes recent pledges from some governments, these need to be urgently turned into money on the ground to make a real difference.
In Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, local communities, national and international medics, aid workers and military are working around the clock to beat Ebola but huge gaps remain and much more needs to be done. Right now, there are only 12 operational laboratories in the three countries but 28 are needed. There are only 140 burial teams yet 528 are required. Of the planned 4,707 beds in Ebola treatment centres, only 22 per cent are operational, which the World Health Organization says is due to a lack of foreign medical teams. Just 30 of the 50 foreign medical teams needed are there.
Ebola's economic impact
Summit host and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has suggested that Ebola should not be on the G20’s agenda because the crisis is not an economic one. But the ongoing crisis is already having an economic impact across the region with rising prices, lower household incomes and more poverty. This includes:
- UN agencies and the World Bank having to divert resources away from existing development programs to help fight the disease. This threatens to reverse the economic gains that have been made in these countries and to deepen their dependence on aid.
- In Guinea, economic growth has nearly halved, as it has in Liberia. Revenue has fallen by $105m and expenses have risen by $100m. Household incomes are down by more than 12%.
- In Liberia and Sierra Leone, tourism, agriculture and mining have been hit particularly hard. Inflation has increased and there are shortages of basic commodities, including food. In just six months, household incomes have fallen by 35 percent in Liberia and 30 percet in Sierra Leone.
- Tourism in the neighboring countries of Gambia and Senegal has already been affected and the Kenyan Treasury Secretary has said Kenya’s growth estimates for the year have been scaled down as a result of Ebola-related tourism cancellations.
Responsibility for Ebola response
Of the G20, the US, UK and EU, followed by Canada, China and Germany have shouldered most responsibility. Oxfam says they must persuade other G20 countries to do more. Australia, Italy, Japan, South Africa and South Korea have made welcome contributions, but are encouraged to do more in the face of continued and mounting needs.
Oxfam is calling on all G20 countries to take responsibility to manage at least one treatment center each, which requires a medical team of between 25 and 35 people. All countries need to look at what more funding and resources they can offer to fill the current gaps and meet the additional cost of long-term recovery.
Oxfam is working to stop the spread of the virus which includes promoting prevention messages in communities, distributing protective clothing and hygiene kits, including soap and bleach, and providing access to safe water at treatment centres and in communities.
Oxfam is part of a multi-agency global petition calling for G20 leaders to respond to the Ebola crisis. This petition with more than 165,000 signatures is being presented to a selection of G20 governments on Thursday (13 November).
Notes to editors
Photos of Oxfam's latest aid shipment, worth $358,000, being prepared for delviery from the UK to Liberia.