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Epidemic fight Swiss agree to take part in UN Ebola mission

Volunteers from the Swiss army could be spent to help with logistics in Ebola hotspots

(EPA)


The cabinet has decided in principle to participate in a United Nations mission to fight the Ebola epidemic sweeping across West Africa.

An observer mission will be sent to the region shortly to establish how up to 90 volunteers from the Swiss army and three helicopters can help transport medical personnel and material, a cabinet spokesman said on Wednesday.

He specified that the Swiss team will not be involved in evacuating victims of the Ebola virus.

"Switzerland wants to help the population in the Ebola-affected regions with its expertise and its humanitarian support," the defence ministry said.

Priority is given to Liberia, a statement added. Preparations will be made jointly by the defence ministry and the Swiss Development Agency (SDC). 

The first Swiss volunteers, members of the armed forces and civilians, could be dispatched to the region in mid-November.

Parliament is due to discuss the mission during its next session.

Funds

So far, Switzerland has pledged up to CHF9 million ($9.5 million) for efforts to contain the epidemic and to boost the health system in the crisis region.

The Ebola epidemic is still spreading in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia and the number of cases in West Africa will exceed 9,000 this week, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday.

The death toll so far in the outbreak, first reported in Guinea in March, has reached 4,447 from a total of nearly reported 9,000 cases.

Urs Geiser, swissinfo.ch and agencies

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