West African Ebola Epidemic Out of Control, European Doctors Call On Governments to Mobilize

November 4, 2014

Leading doctors and public health professionals from across Europe called upon European governments to take up their responsibilities to aid West Africa to defeat the Ebola epidemic, and the socio-economic conditions which underlie it, in an open letter published in the Lancet British medical journal on Oct. 4. They specified the aggressive approach required, including mobilizing military and civilian air, sea and land transport of the medical personnel, equipment and supplies required, as well as such basics as generators, water and fuel.

A month later, the program of action proposed by 44 professionals with expertise in public health and emergency response, has yet to be adopted by any government of Europe.

"After months of inaction and neglect from the international community, the Ebola epidemic in west Africa has now spiraled utterly out of control. Today, the virus is a threat not only to the countries where the outbreak has overwhelmed the capacity of national health systems, but also to the entire world. We urge our governments to mobilise all possible resources to assist west Africa in controlling this horrific epidemic," they wrote, urging the following measures be adopted:

1. That European governments create mechanisms so as to facilitate professionals from European public health care systems taking temporary leave to work in west Africa.

2. Provide such technical and infrastructure support as field laboratories, epidemiological and microbiological surveillance resources, diagnostic equipment, and mobile communications software and technology, which "go hand in hand with basic infrastructure requirements such as electric generators, clean water, and fuel."

3. Provide medical supplies such as personal protective equipment, disinfectants (soap and chlorine), to health-care centers as priority, but also to those providing care at home, due to the lack of health care centers.

4. Mobilize "military and civil transport by air, sea, and land to ship food, supplies, and personnel to the affected regions."

Europe's "response should catalyse the link between health and development," they specify. "The Ebola epidemic has eco-social origins and societal costs that go far beyond the health effects," they noted.

"The Ebola epidemic represents a public health imperative; unchecked, it might very well become a geopolitical crisis."

The five initiators of the letter include the president of the Association of Schools of Public Health in the European Region (ASPHER), Vesna Bjegovic-Mikanovic, European Public Health Association presidents (past, current and upcoming) Peggy Maguire, Dr. Walther Ricciardi and Martin McKee, and the head of the School of Public Health Studies and Medical School at the University of Valencia, Spain, Dr. Jose M. Martin-Moreno.