6:30 P.M. Africa steps up the Ebola fight with $28.5 million fund
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The African Union raised $28.5 million on Saturday from the continent's wealthiest individuals and firms for a fund to fight the Ebola outbreak ravaging three west African nations.
AU officials and business executives gathered in the Ethiopian capital to launch the emergency response fund said the money committed would be disbursed immediately.
"Our immediate concern is to respond to the appeal for 1,000 health care workers," Strive Masiyiwa, Chairman of Econet Wireless, an African telecom operator, told reporters.
"We have also received considerable contributions in kind, which may well ... exceed what we have received in cash."
Ebola has killed 4,950 people of the 13,241 infected since the outbreak started earlier this year, according to the World Health Organization, mostly in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.
While countries from the United States to China and Cuba have deployed resources and health personnel in a UN-led aid surge, fast-growing African states and institutions have faced questions about the level and speed of their own contributions.
The African Union and the African Development Bank will guide the legal set-up of the new fund, which will be administered by a board of trustees drawn from corporate Africa.
Givers to the fund also include foreign firms that do business in Africa, Masiyiwa said.
At the meeting, African telecom firms also agreed an initiative to provide a platform for their customers to give at least a dollar each, with the potential of reaching 700 million mobile phone users, he added.
The platform, which will use one short code across all networks, is expected to be ready early next month.
Mustapha Sidiki Kaloko, the African Union's Commissioner for Social Affairs, said the priority was to secure transport for the 1,000 extra health workers required.
"If somebody could help us with the transportation of the workers to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea ... that would be very, very helpful to us," Kaloko told Reuters after the meeting.
The commissioner said they had 103 health workers on the ground but the number could go up to 2,000 by the end of December. (Reuters)