Germany pledges further 85 million euros in Ebola aid | News | DW | 17.10.2014
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Germany pledges further 85 million euros in Ebola aid

The federal government has upped its financial contribution for Ebola response efforts six-fold to 100 million euros ($127 million), calling the situation in West Africa "extremely worrying."

In the face of criticism that Germany is not contributing enough to international efforts to stem the spread of Ebola, Berlin announced Friday it would pledge 100 million euros, up from its earlier commitment of 17 million euros.

The announcement was made by deputy government spokeswoman Christiane Wirtz, speaking at a debate in parliament about Germany's Ebola response.

"The situation is extremely worrying. We acknowledge this. But Ebola can only be contained if we establish much closer cooperation internationally and far more effective structures," she said.

Foreign Ministry deputy head Maria Böhmer, also speaking at the Bundestag debate, lauded the increased commitment, but warned at the same time that "financial contributions" weren't the only way to solve the problem.

"We are all in this fight together," she said. "Germany must play its part in offering support, in whatever form."

Berlin has come under criticism for its hitherto sluggish response to the epidemic - claims Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has since conceded.

Merkel and Steinmeier at Bundestag session 16.10.2014

"We have underestimated the disastrous consequences of Ebola," Steinmeier (l.) said

"We have underestimated the disastrous consequences of Ebola," Steinmeier said over the weekend in the "Bild am Sonntag" newspaper. "The race to catch up begins now."

Spreading fear

Friday's announcement came amid growing concern in Europe and the United States that the epidemic could spread there, too.

At Friday's parliamentary debate, Left party MP Niema Movassat criticized the tardy German response as a display of "staggering self-centeredness."

"Why is this coming only now? Because the disease has reached us?"

He also rebuked domestic media for their coverage of the epidemic, calling on papers such as Bild - Germany's and Europe's most widely read - to "refrain from using the disease simply to stoke fears."

Movassat went on: "I opened up the Bild newspaper this morning to read, shockingly, about instructions for what to do if I suspect that I - or others - are infected with Ebola: I should call emergency services and ask for help. What?! … Such reporting, apart from pestering emergency services with phone calls, will simply spread fear throughout our society in a completely unnecessary fashion."

Playing catch up

Apart from its relatively small financial contribution - the US, for example, has already pledged $750 million - another hindrance to Germany's Ebola response concerns personnel shortfalls and in defense equipment, in particular, in the Luftwaffe, or air force. This has affected Berlin's ability to come through on pledges to set up hospitals in Liberia and Sierra Leone, for instance.

Isolierstation Uniklinik Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE)

The University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf treated an Ebola patient who was released at the beginning of October

On numerous occasions, aircraft carrying Ebola aid bound for West Africa have been grounded because they simply can't make the journey. Berlin promised to participate in an international airlift to fly 100 tons of supplies per week to Liberia, Senegal, Guinea and Sierra Leone. Ever since that pledge, the Luftwaffe has only been able to transport 5 tons of medical aid to Liberia and Sierra Leone. One transport was delayed due to technical problems with military cargo aircraft.

Germany's Red Cross said this week that 170 staff were needed to operate the two 200-bed hospitals it has promised to set up in Liberia and Sierra Leone. At the moment, those numbers can't be met.

The Luftwaffe has also encountered problem equipping its Airbus planes with isolation cells to transport Ebola-infected passengers. At this point, Germany has flown in three infected patients for treatment in Hamburg, Frankfurt, and Leipzig. The last of those patients, a UN aid worker who had been active in Liberia, succumbed to the virus earlier this week.

According to the World Health Organization, close to 4,500 people have died from Ebola, primarily in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

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