Norway adjusts its Ebola response

Norway has provided more than NOK 500 million to the efforts to fight Ebola in West Africa. The infection rate is now greatly reduced. Norway is therefore scaling down its efforts in cooperation with the authorities in the countries concerned and the UN. This means that Norwegian health workers will return to Norway at the end of March.

The Ebola virus has claimed more than 10 000 lives in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone over the last year. The crisis is still not over, and it is important to strengthen the authorities’ capacity to stop any new outbreaks and prevent the spread of infection.

‘Norway has had a broad engagement in the efforts to fight Ebola. We will continue our strong engagement by providing support to NGOs, the World Health Organization and other partners. This will include an additional contribution of NOK 50 million to the WHO’s efforts. Altogether, Norway has provided more than NOK 500 million to the fight against Ebola,’ said Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende, who visited Liberia and Sierra in September last year.

The infection rate in Sierra Leone has fallen. The Government of Sierra Leone has decided that the Ebola clinic in Moyamba, where Norwegian health personnel have been working since December, is to stop admitting new patients, and is to close completely by the end of March.

‘Norway, together with the UN and the UK, supports this decision, and we are therefore bringing back the Norwegian health workers at the end of March,’ said Minister of Health and Care Services Bent Høie, who visited Sierra Leone in February.

No new cases of Ebola have been confirmed in the Moyamba district in recent weeks. This means that there is less need for treatment centres, but the general health and humanitarian needs in the country are very great. The health authorities in Sierra Leone want to see a rapid normalisation of the situation, so that the local health workers can return to their normal jobs and help to rebuild the country’s ordinary health services. They have therefore decided to close 15 of the 24 treatment centres.

‘This work hasn’t been without risk, and I’m impressed by all those who have shown such willingness to help fellow human beings in a difficult situation. The part played by the Norwegian health workers has been an important contribution to the overall effort. Together with health workers from Sierra Leone and other countries, Norwegian doctors and nurses have provided the best possible care for everyone that has come to the treatment centre. They have saved many lives, and the very fact that they have taken in people with the disease has helped to limit further infection,’ said Mr Høie.

On behalf of the Norwegian Government, both Ministers have expressed their gratitude to all who have taken part in this effort: aid workers, health personnel, technical staff from the Norwegian Directorate for Civil Protection, teams from the armed forces, who have transported equipment for the British, and the many others who have made this work possible.

Now Norway is encouraging the major global actors in the field, such as Gavi (the Vaccine Alliance), the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and the World Bank to invest in the rebuilding of the health systems in the affected countries. Norway will also support measures to ensure that schools can be safely reopened, and will deploy humanitarian experts through NORCAP (the Norwegian Refugee Council’s emergency standby roster).

Many people have criticised the international response to the Ebola crisis for being too slow. Norway, together with Ghana and Germany, has requested the UN Secretary-General to initiate an evaluation, and a panel of independent experts has been established for this purpose.  

Norway’s contributions in the fight against Ebola

Norway has provided more than NOK 0.5 billion to the Ebola response. The first contribution was to Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) in April 2014, and further contributions were announced several times during the course of the autumn/winter that year. In addition to making personnel, equipment and an aircraft available in Sierra Leone, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has provided substantial funding to humanitarian organisations for running Ebola centres, treating patients, contact tracing and ensuring safe burial. Considerable funds have also been provided for the overall effort through organisations such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the African Union and the UN multi-partner trust funds. Norway has also made major contributions to the core budgets of many of the organisations and institutions that have responded to the epidemic.

Concrete measures include:

  • Norway has staffed the Ebola Treatment Center (ETC) run by Medicos del Mundo (MdM) in Sierra Leone.
  • Norway has built up and run a basecamp providing accommodation for international aid workers in Moyamba, Sierra Leone.
  • Norway has made a Hercules aircraft from the armed forces available for the transport of personnel and equipment to Sierra Leone. The aircraft has made a total of 24 flights.
  • Norway has provided NOK 32.7 million to the Research Council of Norway and WHO to support their work to develop an Ebola vaccine.
  • More than 300 Norwegian health workers volunteered to join the efforts in Sierra Leone, and 110 of them were recruited. The Bergen regional health authority was responsible for the recruitment process.
  • Three Norwegian teams, each made up of 15 health workers (doctors, nurses and ambulance personnel), worked in Moyamba on a rota with four weeks on duty and six weeks at home. At present there are still eight health workers in Moyamba. Their engagement will come to an end on 31 March.

The total Norwegian contribution to the efforts to fight Ebola has exceeded NOK 500 million. Apart from the costs of making personnel, equipment and an aircraft available in Sierra Leone, the largest single contributions have been made to international organisations such as WHO, the World Bank, the World Food Programme and UNICEF. Substantial funds have also been channelled through NORCAP, Médicins sans Frontières and the Red Cross.