China pledges $105 million to fight Ebola: Xinhua

BEIJING (AFP) - China will provide Ebola hit countries in West Africa with new aid worth the equivalent of US$82 million (S$105 million), China's President Xi Jinping said on Friday, as European leaders pledged more donations.

Beijing will give 500 million yuan (S$105 million) to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea as well as international organisations, the official Xinhua news agency cited Xi as saying.

"China will offer aid in cash and in kind, send more health experts and medical staff and help build a treatment center in Liberia," Xi said during a meeting in Beijing, according to Xinhua, adding: "A friend in need is a friend indeed." Some 4,900 people have died of Ebola in West Africa, and experts warn that infections could soar to 10,000 per week by early December - a terrifying prospect for a disease with a death rate running at 70 percent.

The UN, which has set up the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER), previously estimated that US$1 billion was needed to fight Ebola for six months.

China's donation is apparently in addition to the US$38.2 million that Beijing last week said it had provided to Ebola-hit areas.

China is Africa's largest trading partner, and Beijing's diplomatic footprint across the continent has expanded hugely in recent years as it seeks resources to power its economy.

The announcement came as European Union leaders agreed to boost aid to one billion euros to pay for medical staff and facilities in the worst affected countries.

The United States has earmarked more than US$350 million in aid, while the World Bank and African Development Bank pledged US$400 million and US$225 million respectively.

The island nation of Cuba has sent 256 medical workers to Guinea and Liberia, a larger contingent than most Western countries, and winning plaudits from humanitarian workers.