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Scotland responds to the Ebola crisis

12 November 2014

The following article is adapted from one that appeared in the Sunday Herald on 2 November, written by Kathy Galloway, Chair of the DEC Ebola Crisis Appeal in Scotland, and Head of Christian Aid Scotland.

DEC Ebola appeal launch  

Late last month we joined together as part of the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) to launch an appeal for people affected by the Ebola crisis in West Africa.

Since then, the appeal has received an overwhelming response from the Scottish people. Together we have donated over £1.5m through the DEC in less than a fortnight.

This is evidence not only of the compassion and generosity of Scots, which has never been in any doubt, but also of the way in which people easily identify with the terrible human suffering that this disease is causing throughout Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.

This is why, for the first time in its 50-year history, the DEC appealed in response to a disease outbreak.

In West Africa today we are seeing a disease create not just a medical crisis but a humanitarian emergency. Without urgent action to stop the spread of Ebola, and to help those affected by the crisis, parts of West Africa face catastrophe within a matter of weeks.

A history of impact

The DEC brings together 13 leading UK aid charities in times of crisis. In Scotland, these include: British Red Cross, Christian Aid, Concern Worldwide, Islamic Relief, Oxfam, Save the Children and Tearfund.

We have run 62 UK-wide appeals and raised more than £1.1 billion since the DEC's launch in 1963, helping to save millions of lives and rebuild communities devastated by disasters.

For example, almost exactly 10 years ago we raised £392m for the 2004 tsunami appeal. And four years ago we raised £107m for the response to the earthquake in Haiti.

The great thing about DEC appeals is that they pool the diverse experience and specialised work of different agencies. We are able to use money donated by the public as efficiently as possible, so that we can help the maximum number of people during times of crisis.

Our response

In terms of the current Ebola crisis, DEC member agencies and their partners have been working urgently to help stop the spread of the disease and provide support to those affected by the crisis.

  • There is increasing recognition that the impact is wider than medical and health needs alone, and member agencies are now providing practical help such as food aid to families affected by the disease.'

Some DEC member agencies are involved in the highly specialised work of treating people with Ebola, but the majority of the work of our members is focused on stopping the spread of the disease and providing support to those affected by the crisis.

DEC members responded to the crisis early on through vital work providing water and sanitation, supporting health teams and raising awareness among communities. As the infection rates started to explode, member agencies significantly ramped up their responses to prevent the spread of the disease and to stop new infections.

There is increasing recognition that the impact is wider than medical and health needs alone, and member agencies are now providing practical help such as food aid to families affected by the disease.

Food packages provided for those affected by Ebola

We urgently need funds to provide a holistic response to the crisis, preventing the spread of the disease and helping those affected.

Our member agencies have already achieved so much - providing protective clothing, educating communities and supporting safe and dignified burials - but there is so much more to do.

That is why we are grateful for the incredibly generous response so far to our appeal by people in Scotland, and indeed throughout the UK.

We welcomed the fact that the UK Government matched the first £5m given by the public, and that the Scottish Government contributed £500,000 to the World Health Organization in August, and a further £300,000 through an in-kind contribution of equipment made via the Department for International Development.

The DEC in Scotland also wrote to leading Scottish politicians asking them to do everything possible to support the appeal. This included every Scottish MSP, MP and MEP, along with council leaders.

Sarah Boyack MSP, convener of the Cross-Party Group on International Development, placed a motion at the Scottish Parliament backing the appeal, with cross-party support. We were pleased with the significant and swift response of our politicians.

What next?

The period of joint action within the DEC has now come to an end, but the work continues among individual members and the need for a response is still great.

Christian Aid partners are on the ground, working flat out to protect people from the virus. We've given out 200,000 pairs of disposable gloves and 360kg of powdered chlorine for health centres and medical teams to keep it at bay.

We've reached 1.2 million people with life-saving advice on how to avoid contracting Ebola. Together we can tackle the chaos and mixed messages - clear, accurate information will save lives.

We very much hope that you will continue to support the Ebola Crisis Appeal so that we can help stop the spread of this appalling disease.

You can keep up to date with Christian Aid’s response, download prayers and donate to the appeal via our Ebola Crisis Appeal pages. Thank you for your support.

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