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Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade briefs NGOs on Ebola crisis

17th October 2014 - Charles Flanagan TD

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Charlie Flanagan TD, and Minister of State for Development, Trade Promotion, and North-South Co-operation, Seán Sherlock TD, have welcomed the opportunity this afternoon for key Departmental officials to brief NGO partners on the latest developments in the Ebola crisis.

This is the latest in a series of Department-organised briefings and consultations with Irish NGOs and aid organisations active in the region to ensure that all are up to date on developments, and on Ireland’s contribution to the international effort to stem the current outbreak.

Minister Flanagan referred to next week’s Foreign Affairs Council, at which EU Foreign Ministers will discuss this important global issue with EU colleagues:

“At next week’s EU Foreign Affairs Council, a crucial part of our discussion will be around international health workers, and what we can do at EU level to ensure that sufficient mechanisms are in place to best support those additional international workers who are so badly needed as part of an effective international response to the crisis in West Africa.

“The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has been working with colleagues in other Departments and agencies and our EU and international partners, to put in place detailed contingency plans including a coordinated response.

“It is important that anyone considering volunteering as part of the international effort is aware of the risks associated, and my Department has been working with the HSE to put together an information guide to assist people in making those decisions and ensure they are informed of how they can best protect themselves if they do travel.”

The Minister noted the importance of the international aid effort and highlighted Ireland’s contribution:

“We are examining how best to advance our efforts, including a contribution to the new UN Mission, UNMEER.

“Ireland is providing over €16 million in the region, directly and through NGOs. Our programmes in Sierra Leone and Liberia are very focused on strengthening health systems and we have reprogrammed other funding directly to the Ebola response.

Minister of State Sherlock welcomed the chance to engage with NGOs who are working on the ground in West Africa.

“I saw the importance of engaging and co-ordinating with Irish and international NGOs during my recent visit to Sierra Leone. I was proud to see that Irish Aid funding and supplies are being used to bring relief to families and communities on the frontline. Ireland is financing the running of two Ebola Treatment Centres in Sierra Leone and Liberia, providing extra beds, ambulances, and practical training to staff.

“We have adopted a flexible approach with NGO partners so that our long term development funding to them can, as necessary be redirected to assist with the Ebola effort. We will maintain the closest contact with our NGO partners to ensure we can work as effectively as possible together to combat this disease.”

Minister Flanagan also noted the importance of Ireland’s domestic preparations:

“Ireland has been prepared since 2002 for an outbreak of a disease such as Ebola. These plans, drawn up by clinicians and Public Health Experts, were updated in 2012 and they were tested in 2013. The Department of Health and the HSE have and continue to meet regularly with other Government Departments providing updates on the emerging situation in West Africa. Information on what to do along with Personal Protective Equipment has been distributed to front line professionals nationwide should a suspected case of Ebola emerge in Ireland.”

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