In response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which began in March 2014, the EU has contributed humanitarian aid, expertise, international coordination and longer-term development assistance. So far, of the three worst affected countries, only Liberia has been declared Ebola free. The EU is now increasingly focusing on long-term recovery: financing programs for healthcare, agriculture, infrastructure, education, sanitation, macro-economic stability and transport.
- The EU's response
- EU assistance and expertise on the ground
- Is Ebola a public health risk for the EU?
The Ebola outbreak mainly affecting the West Africa region: Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. It was the worst and most complex outbreak of the epidemic ever on record. Liberia was declared Ebola free on 3 September 2015, whilst the last cases in Guinea and Sierra Leone were recorded at the end of September 2015.
While international efforts to fight Ebola have been successful in reducing the number of infections, there is no room for complacency. Continued response efforts are necessary to get to zero Ebola cases. (For the latest situation updates please visit the World Health Organisation (WHO) website or follow the link to the Factsheet on Ebola). The Ebola outbreak also created secondary humanitarian needs, such as food, clean water and sanitation.
The WHO has declared it a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, calling for a coordinated international response. Less severe outbreaks in Mali, Nigeria and Senegal have been contained.
The European Commission and EU Member States are closely collaborating within the Health Security Committee (HSC) to manage the latest developments and to coordinate approaches on prevention and preparedness for Ebola.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) are producing risk assessments, epidemiological updates, advice to travellers and other information about the emergency.
The EU's response
The European Union and its Member States have so far contributed over €1.8 billion to the fight against Ebola in West Africa. This means the Union has already gone beyond the target set by the European Council meeting on 23-24 October 2014 for €1 billion in assistance to stem the epidemic.
In addition, humanitarian experts and specialists have been deployed and vital equipment has been provided, including air transport for goods and personnel through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. International health workers are the backbone of the response to the Ebola epidemic. To support their mobilisation and protection, the EU has established a medical evacuation system. Member States are making capacity available for this. The EU guarantees appropriate care for international health workers, should they become infected.
The European Commission's Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC) has been monitoring developments since the outbreak was notified in March 2014. An EU Ebola Task Force has been established, bringing together all Commission services and the European External Action Service (EEAS), including EU Delegations in the affected countries.
Click on this map to see the EU's in-kind assistance to Ebola affected countries
The Task Force meets twice a week at operational level in the ERCC, which serves as a platform for coordination of the European response. Member States and other concerned parties such as International Organisations and NGOs participate. The Task Force liaises constantly with UNMEER (United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response), WHO and other key partners.
On 16 October 2014, a high-level meeting took place in Brussels between the EU Health Commissioner Tonio Borg and health ministers from Member States to discuss Ebola and it was agreed to step up efforts and reinforce EU countries' preparedness and response.
During the European Council meeting on 23-24 October 2014 the EU appointed incoming Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides as EU Ebola Coordinator. The coordinator role was first announced by former EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton at the EU foreign ministers meeting on 20 October 2014 to ensure the most effective engagement between the European Union, member states and the UN.
On 3 March 2015, the European Union organised a high-level conference on the Ebola epidemic. The purpose was two-fold: first, to take stock of the ongoing emergency response and adapt it to the evolving situation on the ground, heading to eradication of the disease; second, to plan for the long term and support the recovery and resilience of the affected countries, including the development of their health systems. The event was co-chaired by the EU, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, the United Nations, the African Union, and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
Press release: From emergency to recovery: EU mobilises efforts to end Ebola and alleviate its impact
Remarks by EU Ebola Coordinator Christos Stylianides, High-Level Ebola Conference
High-Level Ebola Conference: Final statement by the Co-chairs
The European Commission has also promptly and strongly supported urgent Ebola research on potential treatments, vaccines and diagnostic tests with almost € 700 million from Horizon 2020, the EU’s research and innovation funding programme.
The European Union's response to Ebola emergency
Factsheet: EU response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa
More on the EU’s response to help fight the Ebola outbreak in West Africa
European Union to boost Ebola research with €24.4 million
EU acts together to stop Ebola
EU assistance and expertise on the ground
The EU has reacted to the Ebola epidemic from its onset. Since March 2014, the European Commission has allocated more than € 70 million in humanitarian funding to address the most urgent needs. These funds are channeled through humanitarian partner organisations, such as MSF, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, IMC, Save the Children, IRC, Alima, WFP’s Humanitarian Air Service, UNICEF and WHO.
Humanitarian experts and hazardous diseases specialists have been deployed in the affected regions to report on the situation and liaise with partners and the authorities. EU funded mobile laboratories (EMlab) are also operating on the ground, providing diagnostic support and analysing blood samples.
In addition to the existing EU and bilateral development partnerships, the Commission has provided over € 660 million in development and early recovery assistance. Most of this money is provided to stabilise the countries and assist them in recovering from the crisis and beyond.
The Delegations of the European Union, through diplomatic outreach and other channels, facilitate the humanitarian response in the countries concerned, to sensitize governments on appropriate and measured responses to the crisis with regard to travel restrictions, trade impediments, etc.
Is Ebola a public health risk for the EU?
Europe is not exempt from the public health risk posed by Ebola. However, the risk of Ebola spreading widely in the EU population is still considered low. Although the Ebola virus is highly contagious, its spread is limited to very specific conditions involving close contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person or corpse.
In addition, Europe has very high standards of infection control procedures in Europe.
Despite the low risk, the EU needs to be prepared for the possibility of a traveller with the Ebola virus returning to the EU and for further secondary cases in Europe.
They also stressed the importance to better coordinate national measures already taken by EU member states at entry points. Member states should use visa information systems and transport carriers' information to anticipate the potential arrivals of disease infection.
It is important that prevention measures are implemented, including informing and sensitising returning travellers and healthcare providers and ensuring that European health systems are prepared for the diagnosis and treatment of Ebola should the need arise. Citizens also need to be objectively informed of the measures taken to protect them from a potential contamination.
The Commission has also launched the ‘Ebola Communication Platform for Clinicians’ – an online platform enabling the rapid exchange of information on the treatment and prevention of Ebola. The platform brings together EU hospitals and physicians recognised as reference centres for the treatment of Ebola.
How does Ebola spread and reducing the risk of transmission
Public health – latest developments
Questions and answers: Ebola and health implications for the EU
Information for travellers
Information for Healthcare Workers