Aquino: PH to give $1M for UN Ebola efforts
MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – President Benigno Aquino III on Friday, November 7, said the Philippine government will give $1 million to the United Nations to help fight the deadly Ebola virus in West Africa.
"As the Philippines' contribution, we will give not lower than $1 million to the United Nations to help prevent the spread of the Ebola virus disease," Aquino said in Filipino at a press briefing on Ebola in Villamor Airbase in Pasay City.
The announcement comes almost a month after the country decided not to send health workers to West African countries despite global calls.
By helping international efforts, Aquino said the government is fulfilling its obligation to take care of its nationals who are overseas. (READ: 5 misconceptions about Ebola)
The Ebola virus, which can be transmitted through bodily fluids, causes severe fever, muscle pain, weakness, vomiting, and diarrhea. In some cases, it also causes organ failure, unstoppable bleeding, and can kill victims in just days.
As of October 31, WHO said the 2014 Ebola outbreak has already killed 4,818 out of 13,042 cases, mostly in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. (READ: WHO reduces Ebola death toll to 4,818)
UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said that the UN "welcomes very much" the announcement of the Philippines, along with contributions from countries like Japan, which is providing about $4 million each to the worst-hit countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.
Dujarric said that the UN Headquarters in New York has yet to receive official confirmation of the Philippines' contribution, and it would be up to Manila to specify how and where the money will be used.
The UN appealed for about $1 billion to fund its efforts to fight the worst outbreak of Ebola in history. The world body cited the lack of funds, medical experts and resources as a challenge in stopping the spread of Ebola.
Ebola preparations continue
As of Friday, the Philippines remains Ebola-free as the government continues to prepare against the virus.
On Friday, the President said the government is doing everything it can to prepare for Ebola. (READ: Aquino: Ebola ‘paramount concern’ due to OFWs)
He added: "At this time, I understand that the funds are sufficient [for Ebola], and in case, I think I can draw on the Contingency Fund and at the end of the day, even the President's Social Fund to fund it if necessary. But let us all hope and pray that it will not be necessary."
The World Health Organization (WHO) earlier commended the Philippines' preparations for Ebola as "systematic and meticulous."
In October, the Senate began public hearings on these preparations, and it was satisfied and impressed by what has been done so far.
The preparations come as the Department of Foreign Affairs is set to raise alert level 3 – voluntary repatriation – over Ebola-affected West African countries by mid-November 2014.
Philippine United Nations peacekeepers from Liberia are also scheduled to arrive on November 11. (READ: Troops from Ebola-hit Liberia to stay on 'Island Paradise')
Responding to questions, Aquino said the absence of Health Secretary Enrique Ona, who is on leave until late November, will not affect the government's preparations for Ebola.
"No, the experts are still present. To a large degree, except for Secretary Ona, all the rest of the team are present. So these are the experts that our country has that have been trained...and they are the ones who [are] actually operationalizing all the concepts, all of the necessary activities," he said.
Ona, who has been at the forefront of the Ebola awareness campaign, went on leave late October due to medical reasons. – with reports from Ayee Macaraig in New York / Rappler.com