Pacific countries take measures against Ebola
Pacific countries are taking measures to protect against the virus that has taken grip of West Africa, despite the chances of Ebola reaching the region being described as slim.
Pacific countries are taking measures to protect against the deadly Ebola virus that has gripped West Africa, despite the chances of it reaching the Pacific being described as slim.
Vanuatu's government has cancelled a large multinational conference due to be held next month, and Fiji has announced it won't be sending another contingent of police officers to Liberia as part of a UN mission.
Jamie Tahana reports.
Last Week, Vanuatu's government announced that it was cancelling a meeting between African, Caribbean and Pacific nations with members of the European Parliament because of concerns over Ebola.
Leonidas Tezapsidis is the European Union's Ambassador to Solomon Islands, whose jurisdiction includes Vanuatu. He says the decision to call off the ACP-EU meeting was agreed upon by all sides with good reason.
LEONIDAS TEZAPSIDIS: I'm sorry for this cancellation, obviously the Vanuatu authorities together with the European partners had their good reasons, and I'm sorry because of all the work that has been put into preparing it and obviously there is going to be an impact on Port Vila - the hotels and all the institutions that have been involved.
The World Health Organisation is among those leading the response to Ebola in western Africa. Its coordinator in Vanuatu, Dr Jacob Kool, says his office provided information about Ebola and its risks to the Vanuatu government in the lead-up to its decision. Dr Kool says while the chance of Ebola actually reaching the Pacific is small, precautions must be taken. He says if it were to spread, the Pacific's limited health systems would struggle.
JACOB KOOL: Well these countries are only small and their health systems are only small too and so it takes quite some effort to take care of a case of Ebola. It takes quite a large number of staff and a large amount of equipment and supplies. So, yeah, it is a challenge.
But Vanuatu isn't the only country in the region reacting to the Ebola crisis. The Fiji police says it won't be sending replacements for the United Nations Mission in Liberia, and questions have been raised in the country's parliament about what will be done when the officers currently in Liberia return.
Samoa's Rugby Union has decided to not send its sevens team to a tournament in Kenya, and the International Petanque Federation has deferred the world championship due to be held in Tahiti next month. Solomon Islands, the Northern Marianas and American Samoa have also announced that they're working on prevention and control measures. Dr Jacob Kool says the WHO is working with Pacific governments to distribute Ebola protection gear around the region.
JACOB KOOL:Our regional office in Manila will be able to ship some small supplies of these protective suits and equipment and masks and goggles. Because most of the countries don't have enough and I think a lot of them will be ordering some stock by themselves, but at least this is a start for them.
Jacob Kool says the WHO is also working on setting up training courses for health professionals.
Australia's health minister, Peter Dutton, told the radio station 3AW that his country is preparing to assist Pacific nations should an outbreak occur.
PETER DUTTON: We've got a rapid capacity to respond out of Darwin, we can set up field hospitals, we've got the trade workers and the equipment in place, but if we need to fly people back to Australia for medical attention we can do that very quickly.
Peter Dutton says Australia has an obligation to assist the region if Ebola reaches it.
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