Australia will finally be sending workers to help in the fight against Ebola in Africa.
Tony Abbott’s government reached an agreement with the UK this week that will ensure any Australian staff who require urgent medical assistance themselves will have access to the exact same evacuation and treatment facilities as British workers battling the disease.
While Australia was ready to heed the call to bomb militants in Iraq, the powers that be were initially less inclined to help save lives in Africa.
While the US requested their erstwhile military ally to help build three new field hospitals in Africa for the treatment of those affected by Ebola, Australian authorities have been more reluctant to be of assistance in fighting the disease.
Mr Abbott cited ‘insufficient specialized medical personal’ for his hesitation to volunteer Australian resources and the fact that due to the vast distance, Australia would not be able to evacuate its staff back home speedily enough if they came down with the disease.
A poll found though that the vast majority of Australians supported assisting people in West African countries affected by Ebola.
Mr Abbott said that a lack of appropriate treatment facilities and evacuation arrangements for Australian workers who might contract the virus was holding the country back from assisting in eradicating the disease which has already claimed in excess of 6000 lives.
Yet media reports stated late last week that Washington requested Australia contribute an extra AU$ 30 million to the United Nations Ebola fund and that not only helicopters were needed to help facilitate evacuations but also ground vehicles, emergency communications equipment and logistics support.
The Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott reacted to recent criticism at Australia’s slow response to the call for assistance by saying, “I certainly do not rule out Australia doing more.”
A spokesman for Mr Abbott said Friday that the government was, “continuing to discuss with our friends and partners, including the USA and the UK, our response to addressing the situation in West Africa.”
Lashing out at countries she says are not pulling their weight in the fight against Ebola, US ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power this week said to Fairfax media, “This is a crisis that is so vast, with needs so great, with potential consequences so dire that no country can afford to stand on the sidelines. A few are doing a lot. But a lot are doing very little, or nothing at all.”
By Tuesday it was announced that the government had come to an agreement with the United Kingdom that would allow Australia to formally send its expertise to the Ebola hit region.
The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has called the Ebola epidemic the “largest in history. It has so far infected 14,000 people and killed about 6,000, with the number of cases in Liberia and Sierra Leone doubling every 20 days.”
IMAGE: Volunteers who responded to a nationwide appeal by the German Red Cross to help in the fight against Ebola in Africa put on isolation suits during training. Australian personnel will be joining the international effort in Africa. (Photo by Joern Pollex/Getty Images)