By Tom Miles
GENEVA (Reuters) – Britain’s international development minister Rory Stewart called on France and Canada on Monday to offer more help in tackling the Ebola outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo.
Stewart, who visited the Ebola zone earlier this month, told a U.N. meeting that Britain had donated $45 million towards a previous Ebola outbreak and the current one, and that he had authorized a further $63 million of British spending.
“We are going to have to put a lot more money into this on a ‘no regrets’ basis,” he told the meeting, adding that governments must stop using security concerns as an excuse not to send staff to the Ebola front line, where armed groups have frequently attacked aid workers.
The United States, Britain and Germany had all donated generously, but other members of the G7 group of countries needed to do more, Stewart said.
“We would be hugely grateful if our dear friends from the other G7 countries really stepped up,” he added.
Money was the priority, but French language expertise was also valuable, and francophone France and Canada could make a special contribution. “It would be wonderful if some francophone countries could provide more staff on the ground. We desperately need more French speakers deployed in the field,” he said.
Stewart told BBC radio that he would be asking the French and Canadian governments to make more generous contributions.
The World Health Organization’s emergencies chief, Mike Ryan, said Canada had contributed $750,000 directly to the WHO effort, but had also donated to other agencies. It was also Canadian government money that funded the development of the Ebola vaccine that has saved many lives.
“With regard to the government of France, we rely on the government of France for a lot of technical cooperation, but as of this moment WHO has not received any financial contributions from the government of France,” Ryan said.
Stewart said some donors at the packed U.N. meeting believed the response was well funded.
“The World Bank has been making very positive comments about how they’ve got it all under control. They haven’t,” he said, adding that money was needed to double the number of WHO staff helping Congo’s neighbors, such as Burundi and South Sudan, prepare for a potential outbreak.
(Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Catherine Evans)