Today I chaired a meeting of the UN Security Council on the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
The Ebola outbreak has become much more than a health crisis, with serious humanitarian, economic and social consequences including rising food prices, closed schools and lost livelihoods. It also threatens political stability.
In September, the Council recognised the extent of the outbreak as a threat to international peace and security and since that time has remained closely engaged on the international response efforts.
I briefed the Council on the Australian Government’s response to the crisis. Our $42 million contribution includes $20 million to provide 100 beds for Ebola treatment in Sierra Leone. The Australian managed and funded Hastings Airfield Ebola facility will begin its work once the UK completes its construction and fit-out, and personnel are trained to WHO standards. In keeping with best practice, the centre will scale up before operating at capacity, to ensure infection control procedures are firmly in place and working effectively.
Australia is also providing $2 million to support the deployment of experts to a range of United Nations organisations to support the Ebola response and $2 million for an Asia Pacific Regional Preparedness Package.
In my meeting today with the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Ebola, Dr David Nabarro, he welcomed Australia’s swift mobilisation of support, including our early contribution of $10 million to the UN Trust Fund for Ebola which funded immediate assistance in the affected areas, and our additional $8 million in support for other front line services.
I welcome the Presidential Statement adopted by the Security Council today, which recognises the gains made in supporting affected countries, but emphasises there is no time for complacency. The Council urged countries to intensify their efforts to bring the outbreak under control and provide human and financial resources to achieve this.
Leaders at last week’s G20 Summit in Brisbane also expressed concern about the Ebola outbreak and welcomed the International Monetary Fund’s decision to provide a further $300 million to ease pressures on Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
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