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COPENHAGEN: Shipowner J. Lauritzen has signed a three-year partnership with Médecins Sans Frontier (MSF).

The move coincides with an outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa.

The company said the purpose of the partnership is to support human rights, involve key stakeholders in focus areas and encourage different levels of employee involvement.

Jan Kastrup-Nielsen, president & CEO of J. Lauritzen explained: "MSF is committed to bringing quality medical care to people in need, regardless of race, religion or political affiliation. In JL, we feel 'connected' to the important work done by MSF, because we share the humanitarian principles and ethical norms on which it is based. Principles and norms such as impartiality and respect of human rights and of the individual are deeply rooted in MSF and JL and form a common platform for our partnership."

MSF EbolaOver the last two weeks, MSF has treated more than 70 patients with symptoms resembling those of Ebola in its Kailahun treatment centre, eastern Sierra Leone.

The aid organisation says it is concerned about a possible increase in patients in the coming weeks: "To accommodate growing patient numbers, we have expanded the capacity of the treatment centre from 32 to 65 beds", says emergency coordinator Anja Wolz.

MSF says the outbreak currently sweeping through West Africa is reaching an unprecedented scale in terms of its geographical spread, the number of cases and the number of victims. According to the WHO, there have been 848 cases of Ebola and 518 deaths in Guinea, Sierra Leone and in Liberia since the beginning of the outbreak.

In early July, 11 ministers of Health from the region, the WHO and international organisations met in Accra, Ghana to evaluate the situation in a bid to stop the outbreak.

MSF has 300 international and national staff working in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia and has sent more than 40 tonnes of equipment and supplies to the region.

Commenting on the new partnership with the shipowner, Michael Gylling Nielsen, MSF CEO for Denmark said: "We are extremely happy to have been able to form a three-year partnership with J. Lauritzen which we hope and believe will add value to both organizations. J. Lauritzen's dedication to support our humanitarian work for the coming three years will strengthen our emergency aid and ability to meet the needs of our patients across the world."

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