Vatican to step up Ebola response as UK opens Sierra Leone facility
Pope Francis has pleaded for the international community to take stronger, co-ordinated steps to “annihilate” the Ebola virus and help the millions of people impacted by the disease.
His comments came as Vatican officials said they were preparing to step up the Holy See’s response to the crisis.
The Holy Father said: “As the Ebola virus epidemic worsens, I want to express my deep concern for this relentless illness, which is spreading particularly on the African continent and especially among populations that are already disadvantaged,” the Pope said.
He offered his prayers and solidarity with the sick, as well as with the doctors, nurses, volunteers, religious orders and humanitarian agencies working “heroically to help our sick brothers and sisters.”
A special meeting in Rome on 4th November looked at ways of better co-ordinating the work Catholic charities are doing in response to the epidemic, especially in West Africa.
“At this point, it’s not only about preventing Ebola. We’re also called to care for the thousands of healthy people who were already poor, who have no access to healthcare for other illnesses and whose lives have been turned upside down by this crisis,” said Mgr Robert J. Vitillo, the Caritas health adviser.
“This is a shattering emergency. We need to strengthen the response of Caritas and our collaboration with other Catholic Church organisations as quickly as possible. Our brothers and sisters cannot wait,” Mgr. Vitillo said.
The Vatican’s determination to step up its help to countries affected by the disease comes as an international charity praised the response of the British public to the crisis.
The UK’s Disasters Emergency Committee says it has raised £13m to tackle Ebola, a week after its appeal launch.
The British Red Cross’s Ebola response manager, John English, described the British public’s response as “very generous” and said he hoped it would continue.
The DEC, which is made up of 13 British aid charities, including CAFOD, is helping to run treatment facilities and care centres in the affected region.
In addition, a British-run facility set up by members of the armed forces to treat people with Ebola is opening in Sierra Leone.
The 92-bed site in Kerry Town will be run jointly by the Department for International Development (DfID) and charity Save the Children.
The centre is the first of six which are being constructed by the British government as part of the effort to stop the spread of the disease.