France pledges €20m for fight against Ebola

France on Tuesday said it was pledging €20 million ($25.4 million) in the fight against Ebola in west Africa,including the opening of several care centres in Guinea.

France pledges €20m for fight against Ebola
President François Hollande said he had approved a broad plan against the deadly virus including 200 beds in Guinea. Photo: Pascal Guyot/AFP

President François Hollande said he had approved a broad plan against the deadly virus including 200 beds in Guinea, some of which would be reserved for health workers caring for the sick.

The cash should be available within 10 or so days and should cover French costs in the fight against Ebola in the region for "two to three months to come," according to France's Ebola coordinator, Jean-Francois Delfraissy.

France also pledged to set up two training centres for health workers, one in France, one in Guinea.

In addition, French biotechnology companies will set up rapid diagnostic tests in Guinea.

Ebola has killed nearly 5,000 people in the outbreak that has centred on west Africa.

There have been many false alarms in France but, aside from a nurse repatriated from west Africa, there has been no case on French soil.

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France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25

Free birth control for all women under 25 will be available in France from Saturday, expanding a scheme targeting under-18s to ensure young women don't stop taking contraception because they cannot afford it.

France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25
A doctor holds an interuterine contraceptive device (IUD) before inserting it in a patient. Photo: Adek Berry/AFP

The scheme, which could benefit three million women, covers the pill, IUDs, contraceptive patches and other methods composed of steroid hormones. Contraception for minors was already free in France.

Several European countries, including Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway, make contraception free for teens. Britain makes several forms of contraception free to all.

France announced the extension to women under 25 in September, saying surveys showed a decline in the use of contraception mainly for financial reasons.

The move is part of a series of measures taken by President Emmanuel Macron’s government to boost women’s rights and alleviate youth poverty. The free provision is supported by women’s groups including the association En Avant Tous.

“Between 18 and 25-years-old, women are very vulnerable because they lose a lot of rights compared to when they were minors and are very precarious economically,” spokeswoman Louise Delavier told AFP.

Leslie Fonquerne, an expert in gender issues, said there was more to be done.

“This measure in no way resolves the imbalance in the contraceptive burden between women and men,” the sociologist said.

In some developed countries, the free contraception won by women after decades of campaigning is coming under attack again from the religious right.

In the United States, former president Barack Obama’s signature health reform, known as Obamacare, gave most people with health insurance free access to birth control.

But his successor Donald Trump scrapped the measure, allowing employers to opt out of providing contraception coverage on religious grounds — a decision upheld by the Supreme Court in 2020.

Poland’s conservative government has also heavily restricted access to emergency contraception as part of its war on birth control.