THE Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) is launching an appeal over the Ebola crisis - the first time it has ever called for donations in response to a disease outbreak.
The committee, made up of 13 of the UK’s major aid charities, said it took the decision as the effects of the killer virus threaten to become “a humanitarian catastrophe”.
The DEC described the spread of the disease, which has already claimed the lives of almost 5,000 people, as “explosive”, and said it is devastating communities, health services and people’s ability to support themselves.
The deadly illness, which has infected more than 10,000 people, has hit the West African countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea the hardest, and the DEC said some parts of the region face catastrophe within 60 days unless urgent help is provided.
The UK’s main broadcasters are due to screen the appeal tomorrow.
DEC chief executive Saleh Saeed said: “This appeal is completely unprecedented and that is a sign of just how serious the situation in West Africa has become.
“In its 50 year history the DEC has launched appeals for humanitarian disasters caused by floods, famines, earthquake, typhoons, and countless conflicts. We have never run an appeal in response to a disease outbreak - until today.
“While many chronic diseases cause untold suffering in poorer countries, the worst acute outbreaks of deadly diseases such as measles or cholera have usually occurred in the wake of another type of disaster.
“In West Africa today we are seeing a disease create not just a medical crisis but a humanitarian emergency. Without urgent action to stop the spread of Ebola and to help those affected by the crisis, parts of West Africa face catastrophe within 60 days.”
Members of the DEC, which includes British Red Cross, Oxfam and World Vision, have already been involved in helping with the disposal of bodies of victims of the disease, running treatment centres and providing food aid to affected families.
The BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and Sky will carry the appeal, the DEC said, with support from the committee’s major partners including ITN, BT, Post Office, British Bankers Association, Royal Mail, RadioCentre and NewsNow.
• To make a donation to the DEC Ebola Crisis Appeal visit www.dec.org.uk, call the 24 hour hotline on 0370 60 60 900 or donate £5 by texting the word SUPPORT to 70000.