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Plagues on Two Fronts: Ebola and Iraq

  • September 17th, 2014
  • Posted by EU Australia

Execution IS un ebolaUrgent international gatherings this week in Geneva and Paris took on, respectively, the Ebola crisis in West Africa and threats posed by the ‘Islamic state’ movement in Syria and Iraq.  


UN health campaign -ebolaAgencies assisting in disease management – notably UN agencies, the World Health Organisation and  Medecins Sans Frontiers –spelled out at a Geneva panel meeting on Tuesday that the ebola disease outbreak had become a world problem.

They’d succeeded in getting a special session of the United Nations Security Council on the issue, this Thursday, only the second on a health crisis, the other being HIV-AIDS in the 1980s.

The United Nations has already calculated that at least $US1-billion (A$1.101-billion;, 17.9.14) more will be needed to try and subdue the outbreak.

The viral disease, highly contagious where there is direct bodily contact, produces severe fever and internal haemorrhaging, with survival rates no better than 50%, more often 10%.

Sufferers have swamped limited health services where medical and nursing staff have been among the first to get the disease and lose their lives.

Ebola first appeared near the Ebola River, in 1976 in West Africa, where it remains concentrated, the present outbreak – in  Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria and Senegal – so far affecting some 5000 sufferers, with over 2500 deaths.


Health workers from the field warned the international community that the outbreak had become exponential.

Aid has started to flow; the United States detailing 3000 troops to work on infrastructure, Cuba sending medical aid, the European Union set to increase its initial commitment of  €150-million (A$214-million), Australia providing an initial A$1-million, with indications of a likely increase this week.

The European Commission held an extraordinary meeting on the crisis at Brussels on Monday, saying it would extend extra health care assistance, and also economic aid to hardest-hit Liberia and Sierra Leone; and it called on member state governments also to do more.


In Paris, more than 20 countries began meeting on Monday, to marshal a coordinated campaign against the Islamic State ‘jihardist’ campaign in Iraq and Syria.

President Francois Hollande said French aircraft were already commencing reconnaissance ahead of an anticipated increase in air-strikes in the region.

(The show of resolve might have been expected to revive some of the President’s collapsed support among the French public, along with a tight victory in the National assembly, which on Tuesday endorsed a new cabinet. Ministers backing away from the spending reductions plan put forward by his government had earlier, resisting, been removed).


Putting together a joint effort requiring political will and coherence, advanced intelligence sharing, an air campaign, military training for combatants, and a coordinated strategy on the ground, was meeting set-backs.

Super Hornet 2 ADFReluctance to send soldiers to fight was evident among some of the ten Arab states at the table, posing a problem for quick-committers like Canberra, where the government had already ear-marked eight Super Hornet aircraft (picture) and a likely deytachmeent of special operations troops for the campaign.

Super Hornet - ADFThe United Kingdom government indicated it would go beyond its present commitment to sending supplies, though hamstrung by a special problem with hostages, with estimates that up to another 40 of its citizens might be held by the insurgents under threat of death.

In Washington the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, appeared to break ranks with his Commander in Chief, Barack Obama. Against explicit statements by Mr Obama, there would not be American  “boots on the ground”; he told a congressional hearing that while he supported current strategies, if they failed and American interests were imperilled, he might recommend other measures to the President including the use of US combat troops. (The US Defence Department said later there’d been no change of policy).

One regional power, Iran, could be admitted as an observer but not invited to join the coalition’s operations, as they can’t share intelligence with them. Similarly Israel is not engaged, some officials there now expressing concern about the possibility of Iran and the US beginning to act in concert.

The country representatives at Paris did pledge to employ ‘whatever means necessary’.


Nick Cumming-Bruce, U.N. sees need for $1 billion to fight Ebola, NYT, NY, 16.9.14.

Euractiv, Brussels, EU calls for wider response to the Ebola epidemic, 15.9.14., (17.9.14).

Mark Tan, Isis: world leaders give strong backing for Iraq at Paris conference, The Guardian, Manchester, 15.9.14., (17.9.14).

Voice of America, Washington, Obama Announces Plan to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Ebola Fight, 16.9.14., (17.9.14).

World Health Organisation, Geneva, Global Alert and Response, last posting 10.9.14., (17.9.14).

Pictures  ADF, crisis, UN