The rapid rise in Ebola-related deaths is sounding alarm bells right around the globe. International leaders have been slow to ramp up the necessary humanitarian support in order to combat the crisis emanating from west Africa. In this instance the authorities appear to be failing to act to combat the spread of the virus. If the international community had acted in a co-ordinated and concise manner at the beginning of this outbreak, I believe we would not be witnessing the current situation.
Deaths have occurred in Spain and in Germany, bringing the threat of an outbreak even closer to home. The warning from the head of the UN mission for Ebola emergency response, Anthony Banbury, that the disease is, "winning the race", is extremely worrying and highlights the need for a comprehensive humanitarian response plan from the European Union and from the rest of the international community. Europe has always acted in a much speedier manner than other parts of the international community but it needs to do more. Furthermore, the fact that the Irish Medical Organisation has expressed concern about Ireland's contingency plans in the event of an Ebola case, is something which should concern us.
Last week, the assistant director general of the World Health Organisation, Dr. Bruce Aylward, stated that the fatality rate of Ebola has reached 70%. He stated that this is a high mortality disease and that the UN health agency is still focused on trying to isolate sick people and provide treatment as early as possible. It is important to note that previously the WHO had said that the death rate was around 50%. Dr. Aylward stated that if the response to the Ebola crisis is not stepped up within 60 days, a lot more people will die and a very great effort will be required to deal with the spiralling number of cases. He added that in the past four weeks there have been approximately 1,000 new cases per week, although this figure includes suspected, confirmed and probable cases.
Given the background which I have outlined I sought this Topical Issue matter and I am pleased that the Minister of State, Deputy Sean Sherlock is taking it. I compliment him on his visit to west Africa. Our former colleague, Barry Andrews, is chief executive of GOAL and he stated that the Minister of State's visit was very important and very useful. He and his colleagues in the different non-governmental organisations appreciate that support.
This matter was discussed during Question Time almost two weeks ago. It is important that the Minister of State has this further opportunity to outline the response. I ask what protocols have been put in place to ensure that Irish NGO workers travelling to Africa have the proper equipment and training to tackle the crisis. I ask the Minister of State to outline what will be the arrangements for them on their return to this country. Our aid workers travelling to Africa to help combat this disease should be commended on their bravery and their selflessness and should be supported with the best possible equipment and training. I listened to presentations from GOAL and from Doctors Without Borders at the joint committee a number of weeks ago. They provided the committee with details of the huge suffering and hardship that so many communities are experiencing, in particular in three countries in west Africa.
I commend the Minister of State on his visit to the region and I hope that the statement from the Foreign Ministers Council meeting yesterday will result in Europe having a better co-ordinated plan and greater co-operation between member states. It was disappointing to hear that the level of funding provided by EU member states and by the European Union as a whole, is not adequate. The British Foreign Secretary has suggested that the €500 million committed by the member states and the European Commission needs to be doubled. I ask the Minister of State to say whether Ireland intends to propose at the Heads of Government meeting later this week that the European Union and the rest of the international community should provide without further delay the necessary resources to tackle this very serious outbreak.