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You stepped up to tackle Ebola - but did the world’s richest countries?

Posted by Jessica Marsh Digital Campaigns Officer

18th Nov 2014

On 1 October the United Nations issued the stark warning that the Ebola outbreak must be brought under control within 60 days or the world will face an unprecedented situation for which there is no plan. Now, the virus has killed more than 5,000 people and is infecting countless others, and this small window of opportunity is rapidly closing. The goal includes ensuring 70% of infected people are in a care facility and 70% of burials are done without causing further infection.

To help reach that goal, Oxfam joined forces with several other humanitarian organisations to launch a petition urging G20 leaders to step up their commitments and call for more funds, more medical staff and more military support. But it wasn't just us -- thousands of you joined our call to action and told G20 leaders that the time is now for them to work together and resolve the crisis. We can't say it enough: thank you!

This past weekend marked not only day 45 of the UN's 60 day window, but also the G20 Summit in Brisbane, Australia. A sense of urgency surrounded the summit as the UN Security Council warned that the 70% targets were becoming increasingly harder to meet as new infections stacked up. So the eyes of the world were on our leaders and whether they would take the actions necessary to turn the epidemic around.

Although leaders expressed that they were 'deeply concerned about the Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone and saddened by the suffering and loss of life it is inflicting,' their response to the crisis was dangerously inadequate. While they recognised the short and long-term consequences of Ebola, there was a startling lack of immediate action and G20 countries made no new commitments. Without specific commitments made now, there is a real risk that the UN targets will not be met and pain, suffering and loss will continue.

The UK, EU, USA, Canada, China and Germany have led in giving money, but the overall response of the G20 to the crisis is disappointing and represents a level of ambition which is firmly at odds with the unequivocal message of the UN. Just last week Tony Banbury, Head of UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response urged that 'We need more staff to be deployed to the districts where the disease is, we need more Ebola treatment facilities, more community care centres, more partners on the ground to staff these centres, we need greater mobility. And we need money to pay for it all.'

A lthough the G20 failed to take this opportunity to really demonstrate their collective commitment to the fight against Ebola, this won't stop Oxfam from ramping up our response to meet the escalating crisis. Our plans include spending £22 million to scale up our water and sanitation programmes and to reach more than 4 million people in affected countries. There's still time to stop Ebola from consuming communities - but we can't do it without your help.

Blog post written by Jessica Marsh

Digital Campaigns Officer

More by Jessica Marsh