EU appoints Christos Stylianides Ebola czar

Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management European Commissioner-designate Christos Stylianides of Cyprus addresses the European Parliament's Committee on Development, at the EU Parliament in Brussels Sept 30, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS 
Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management European Commissioner-designate Christos Stylianides of Cyprus addresses the European Parliament's Committee on Development, at the EU Parliament in Brussels Sept 30, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS 

BRUSSELS (AFP) - EU leaders on Thursday named Christos Stylianides of Cyprus to coordinate the bloc's fight against Ebola which has claimed nearly 4,900 lives in west Africa.

Mr Stylianides, who will serve as the new EU commissioner for humanitarian aid, was "named EU coordinator for fight against #ebola by #EUCO," European Union head Herman Van Rompuy said in a tweeted message.

During confirmation hearings in the European Parliament last month, Mr Stylianides told MEPs that he was ready to go to west Africa to see the situation on the ground, winning plaudits.

European Union foreign ministers agreed earlier this week that a single Ebola supremo was the best way to bring together the different EU efforts - funding, medical staff and facilities plus research - if the disease was to be contained and brought under control.

Earlier Thursday, the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, said it was in a "race against time" to get ahead of Ebola and make sure it did not establish a foothold elsewhere.

Accordingly, it put up another 24.4 million euros (S$39 million) to fund urgently needed research into finding a vaccine for the disease which currently has a fatality rate of around 70 percent.

The funds will be fast-tracked "in order to start work as soon as possible," the Commission said, with the latest figures showing nearly 4,900 dead and 10,000 cases in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

"We're in a race against time on Ebola and we must address both the emergency situation and at the same time have a long term response," Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso said.

The Commission said it was working with industry to develop vaccines, drugs and diagnostics for Ebola.

So far the European Commission and the 28 individual member states have pledged more than 600 million euros in humanitarian and other aid to help deal with a health crisis which according to the World Health Organization could shortly be producing 10,000 cases a week.

The WHO is coordinating global efforts to control Ebola amid hopes experimental vaccines now being tested could be available early next year.