Brisbane: The G20 group of world's most powerful economies on Saturday vowed to do all it can to "extinguish" the Ebola outbreak that has killed over 5,000 people and address its economic costs but stopped short of pledging any cash commitments.
G20 leaders issued a statement on tackling the deadly virus, days after health workers on the frontline of West Africa's Ebola crisis pleaded with the leaders today for more resources, describing horrific working conditions as they attempt to contain the deadly outbreak.
"We are deeply concerned about the Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone and saddened by the suffering and loss of life it is inflicting. We are mindful of the serious humanitarian, social and economic impacts on those countries, and of the potential for these impacts to spread," the statement said.
"The governments and people of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are making tremendous efforts to fight the outbreak, with the support of the African Union and other African countries. We commend the brave service of health care and relief workers.
"We also applaud the contributions of countries worldwide, the United Nations (UN) and its bodies such as the World Health Organization (WHO), international and regional organisations and financial institutions, non-governmental and religious organisations, and the private sector.
"We fully support the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response?s ongoing work to harness capacity to stop the outbreak, treat the infected, ensure essential services, preserve stability and prevent further outbreaks and urge that it act swiftly to achieve these objectives," it said.
It said that G20 members are committed to do what is necessary to ensure the international effort can extinguish the outbreak and address its medium-term economic and humanitarian costs.
"We will work through bilateral, regional and multilateral channels, and in partnership with non-governmental stakeholders.
"We will share our experiences of successfully fighting Ebola with our partners, including to promote safe conditions and training for health care and relief workers. We will work to expedite the effective and targeted disbursement of funds and other assistance, balancing between emergency and longer-term needs.
We invite those governments that have yet to do so to join in providing financial contributions, appropriately qualified and trained medical teams and personnel, medical and protective equipment, and medicines and treatments," the statement said.
While commending ongoing work, the G20 urged greater efforts by researchers, regulators and pharmaceutical companies to develop safe, effective and affordable diagnostic tools, vaccines and treatments.
It called upon international and regional institutions, civil society and the private sector to work with governments to mitigate the impacts of the crisis and ensure the longer-term economic recovery.
"In this regard, we urge the World Bank Group (WBG) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) to continue their strong support for the affected countries and welcome the IMF's initiative to make available a further USD 300 million to stem the Ebola outbreak and ease pressures on Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, through a combination of concessional loans, debt relief, and grants.
"We ask the IMF and WBG to explore new, flexible mechanisms to address the economic effects of future comparable crises," it said.
The leaders said the Ebola outbreak illustrates the urgency of addressing longer-term systemic issues and gaps in capability, preparedness and response capacity that expose the global economy to the impacts of infectious disease.
The G20 members recommitted to full implementation of the WHO's International Health Regulations (IHR). To this end, and in the context of broader efforts to strengthen health systems globally, they committed to support others to implement the IHR and to build capacity to prevent, detect, report early and rapidly respond to infectious diseases like Ebola and to fight anti-microbial resistance.
The statement said that interested G20 members are supporting this goal through initiatives to accelerate action across the Economic Community of West African states and other vulnerable regions and will report progress and announce a time frame by May, 2015 at the World Health Assembly.
"We invite all countries to join us in mobilising resources to strengthen national, regional and global preparedness against the threat posed by infectious diseases to global health and strong, sustainable and balanced growth for all. We will remain vigilant and responsive," the statement said.
WHO said yesterday that 5,177 people had so far died of Ebola across eight countries, out of a total 14,413 cases of infection, since late December, 2013.
But the UN's health agency has admitted that the number of deaths is likely far higher, given that the fatality rate in the current outbreak is known to be around 70 per cent.