Australia criticized for not sending medical staff to fight Ebola

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[October 02, 2014]  By Colin Packham

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia on Thursday announced additional funds for tackling Ebola but ruled out sending medical staff to Sierra Leone, prompting criticism for medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières that it was failing to meet its commitment.

The government said it would give an additional A$10 million ($8.79 million) to tackle Ebola, taking its total financial assistance to A$18 million. But Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said no medical personnel would be sent for now.

Bishop said sending medical staff to Sierra Leone would endanger them as it does not have the capacity to evacuate anyone that contracts the deadly virus.

But MSF said Australia was shirking its commitment to assist with the fight against Ebola, which has killed more than 3,000 people.

"As a member of the UN Security Council, Australia voted ten days ago for a resolution calling on all UN member States to mobilize resources and expertise to West Africa, and yet is not responding with the kind of action the resolution explicitly calls for," Paul McPhun, Executive Director of MSF Australia, said in an emailed statement.

MSF said just a small number of trained staff would have a "very significant impact".

MSF said 21 Australians and New Zealanders had gone to Sierra Leone to assist, with more willing to help.

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The outbreak has killed 3,338 people, or 47 percent of the 7,178 known to have been infected as of Sept. 28, predominantly in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Senegal, the World Health Organization said.

The disease - which emerged in a remote forest region of Guinea in March - has also turned up in Nigeria and Senegal, but officials say the disease has been contained in those two countries. A man has also been diagnosed with Ebola in the United States.

(Editing by Nick Macfie)

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