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Ebola: German ministers talk up economic recovery in West Africa

Two German federal ministers are on their way to West Africa, to offer Berlin's support as the region recovers from the effects of Ebola. They've also flagged creating specialist teams to deal with future crises.

The lawmakers, Health Minister Hermann Gröhe and Development Minister Gerd Müller, left for West Africa on Tuesday. Their first stop is Ghana - itself spared by the latest Ebola outbreak, but which serves as a logistics base for the countries that were hard hit -

Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea

.

Almost 10,500 people have died from the virus in those three countries in a year, according to the

latest Ebola situation report

from the World Health Organization.

Gröhe and Müller will push for a redevelopment of the affected health systems, and ways to better respond to health disasters in Africa, with a 200-million euro aid package sponsored by Germany.

Müller told the Bild newspaper that a team of "white helmets" - groups of doctors, technicians and specialists - would be set up at Germany's development agency, GIZ, to be sent anywhere in the world in three to five days.

Müller said the outbreak had set back the economies of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea by five to ten years.

Before the trip, Gröhe warned of the growing danger of global epidemics. The risk was increasing, Gröhe said, "because people are traveling more and more."

"We need to learn to think of health in a global way," Gröhe said. "Disease knows no boundaries."

He added that Germany needed to help the poorest countries establish functioning primary health care, and provide more quickly the support staff needed during emergencies.

While the number of new Ebola cases has declined significantly since the start of the year, many have warned against declaring the epidemic over.

"Ebola is not defeated," said Gröhe.

jr/jil (dpa, epd, kna)

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