Ebola appeal launched by Disasters Emergency Committee

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Media captionSaleh Saeed, Disasters Emergency Committee: ''This is a race against time''

An appeal for the Ebola crisis in West Africa is to be launched by the Disasters Emergency Committee.

It is the first time the DEC - a group of 13 UK aid charities - has sought funds over a disease outbreak, which it says is "a sign of how serious the situation has become".

Appeals will be made by all the main UK broadcasters on Thursday.

Ebola has killed almost 5,000 people and infected more than 10,000 in West Africa since the start of the year.

In its 50-year history, the DEC has launched appeals for humanitarian disasters caused by floods, famines, earthquakes, typhoons and conflicts, but not previously for a disease outbreak.

Cleaning kits

Chief executive Saleh Saeed said the "explosive nature of the disease" had caused a "humanitarian catastrophe".

"That has compelled the DEC to respond and help by ensuring that we are able to support people to stop the spread of Ebola before it becomes a major global catastrophe," he said.

He added that member agencies faced a shortfall of £69m to carry out their work in west Africa.

Of the 13 DEC charities, 11 are currently supporting work or planning to respond to the Ebola crisis in West Africa, with the majority of work focused on stopping the spread of the disease and providing support to those affected.

The committee says £25 can provide cleaning kits including bleach, soap and a bucket for three families at risk from Ebola.

Basic protective clothing for three volunteers supporting people under quarantine can be provided for £50 and £100 can buy training for a community on how to keep itself safe from Ebola.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says there could be 5,000-10,000 new cases of the deadly virus every week in the worst affected countries by December. Infection rates continue to grow in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Cumulative deaths up to 23 October

Image caption Note: Figures are occasionally revised down as suspect or probable cases are found to be unrelated to Ebola

The virus spreads through close contact and health officials say stopping the spread of the disease in the areas hardest hit by the outbreak will prevent Ebola's spread to other countries.

In August, the United Nations health agency declared an "international public health emergency", saying that a co-ordinated response was essential to halt the spread of the virus.

By September, WHO director general Margaret Chan said that the "number of patients is moving far faster than the capacity to manage them".

Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US, Thomas Frieden, said in October that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is unlike anything since the emergence of HIV/Aids.

In the United States, two medical workers in Dallas, Texas, who treated a patient - who later died - tested positive for Ebola but have been released from hospital after treatment.

Spanish nurse Teresa Romero was the first person to contract the virus outside West Africa. She was part of a team of about 30 staff at the Carlos II hospital in Madrid looking after two missionaries who returned from Liberia and Sierra Leone after becoming infected.

Germany, Norway and France and the UK have all treated patients who contracted the virus in West Africa.

Ebola virus disease (EVD)

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Media captionHow Ebola survivors’ blood is saving lives
  • Symptoms include high fever, bleeding and central nervous system damage
  • Spread by body fluids, such as blood and saliva
  • Fatality rate can reach 90% - but current outbreak has mortality rate of about 70%
  • No proven vaccine or cure
  • Fruit bats, a delicacy for some West Africans, are considered to be virus's natural host

Ebola special report

Mr Saeed also warned of other risks in west Africa as health workers focus on fighting Ebola.

He said: "The health service in west Africa was virtually on the edge of collapse already. Now with the Ebola outbreak, unfortunately it means that other patients are not getting the care they need, whether it be pregnant ladies or those who have contracted HIV/Aids or malaria."

Meanwhile, Sierra Leone has condemned Australia's decision to suspend entry visas for people from Ebola-affected countries in West Africa, describing it as "counterproductive" and "discriminatory".

The move has also been criticised by Amnesty International, while UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said travel restrictions would severely curtail efforts to beat Ebola.

Also, new US federal guidelines say medics returning from treating patients in West Africa should be monitored but not placed in quarantine.

However, some states say they will continue with their quarantine polices.

Other causes the committee has raised money for:

  • A total of £71m was raised by the Pakistan Floods Appeal which affected more than 18 million people. The floods swept across the country in July and August of 2010
  • The UK public donated £95m for the Philippines Typhoon Appeal which has to date helped more than 900,000 people. The appeal was launched in November 2013
  • The Syria Crisis Appeal opened in March 2013 and has raised about £25m
  • An appeal for people affected by the fighting in Gaza was launched in January 2009 and raised £8.3m
  • A total of £107m was raised for people adversely affected by the earthquake in Haiti

To make a donation to the DEC Ebola Crisis Appeal visit