Security concerns must be addressed through a fact-finding mission before Switzerland sends people to Ebola-stricken regions as part of a United Nations effort, according to Defence Minister Ueli Maurer.
Maurer told the Zentralschweiz am Sonntag and Ostschweiz am Sonntag newspapers that “the deciding factor in the mission is security,“ and not necessarily the fear of contracting Ebola.
He cited “civil war-esque conditions [in Liberia] involving child soldiers and the like” as concerns. In addition, he wondered what would happen “if white people suddenly show up and land somewhere in a helicopter”.
Therefore, Maurer said, it’s possible that Swiss involvement on the ground may not happen. On Wednesday, cabinet announced Switzerland’s provisional involvement in a larger UN effort in Ebola-stricken regions, pending an observer mission to survey the situation on the ground. Only volunteers would be sent on any such mission, cabinet said, adding that the focus would be on Liberia.
Plans have been made for the distribution of medical personnel, equipment and medication via a designated airway.
The observer mission ahead of larger Swiss involvement must determine “whether we will be in a camp on location with other nations” or whether Switzerland would need to take along a separate security detail, Maurer said.
In addition, it needs to be determined where Swiss aid can best be integrated, and partnerships must be developed, the defence minister said.
“We need to know who those partners are, what infrastructure is present on the ground and how we might need to develop that.”
Because of the many questions remaining open, Maurer said it was impossible to say whether and when Swiss soldiers may take part in a mission to Liberia.
Vaccine en route to Switzerland
Meanwhile, on Sunday, the Canadian government announced it would send 800 doses of an experimental vaccine against Ebola to the University Hospital in Geneva for testing.
The Geneva University Hospital has said it will carry out a series of vaccine trials in cooperation with the World Health Organization.
swissinfo.ch and agencies