Ebola: UK ready as UN calls for for more funds

Posted on 17/10/2014 by

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ebola-liberiaUnited Nations chief Ban Ki-Moon has urged the world to do more to help the West African countries stricken by the Ebola virus outbreak. He has launched another urgent appeal for funds to help fight Ebola after a United Nations drive for donations fell far short of its target.

The UN chief said a $1bn trust fund he launched in September has received just $100,000 (£62,000) so far. Despite pledges, only Columbia has paid in full – although donors have given over £250 million to other UN and aid agencies.

Mr Ban said it was time for the countries “who really have capacity” to provide financial and other logistical support, and former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan told the BBC’s Newsnight he was “bitterly disappointed” with the international community’s response. “If the crisis had hit some other region it probably would have been handled very differently, ” he said. “In fact when you look at the evolution of the crisis, the international community really woke up when the disease got to America and Europe”.

Both UK and Scottish governments have supported financial appeals and they continue to closely monitor the situation. 

The Prime Minister chaired a COBR meeting on Ebola yesterday to discuss the situation on the ground, the UK response and domestic preparedness. In a statement, a Downing Street spokesperson said:

The Prime Minister chaired a further COBR meeting on Ebola this afternoon (Thursday 16 October). The attendees included the Foreign Secretary, Home Secretary, Health Secretary, Transport Secretary, International Development Secretary and Armed Forces Minister.

The meeting covered the situation on the ground, the UK response and domestic preparedness for potential cases of ebola. The advice from the Chief Medical Officer is that the risk to the UK from the disease remained low.

The International Development Secretary updated the meeting on the UK aid response and how the UK is leading the international response in Sierra Leone. The package is focussed on improving facilities, training staff and supporting the Sierra Leone government. This included the building of 6 new Ebola Treatment Facilities, local community care units and specific training for health workers, all of which remain on track.

The Armed Forces Minister set out that the military deployment continued to move forward with speed. RFA ARGUS would depart Falmouth tomorrow, taking 3 Merlin helicopters, and would stop in Gibraltar to collect 39 DfID vehicles. It is expected to arrive off of Freetown at the end of the month. Today, just over 100 members of 22 Field Hospital had deployed to commence establishing an Ebola Viral Disease Treatment Unit in Kerrytown. A number of engineers on the same flight will commence development of the Ebola Training Academy, with the first course delivered by the end of October.

There was a discussion over the need for the international community to do much more to support the fight against the disease in the region. This included greater co-ordination of the international effort, an increase in the amount of spending and more support for international workers who were, or who were considering, working in the region. The Prime Minister set out that he wanted to make progress on these issues at the European Council next week.

There was a detailed update about plans for protecting the UK against Ebola. The Health Secretary set out that screening was up and running across all Heathrow terminals and would be in place at Gatwick and St Pancras during the next week. There was a discussion regarding screening across Europe and the Prime Minister made clear other countries needed to do more and introduce their own checks if we are to strengthen protection across the board.

The Health Secretary set out that the national exercise to test UK preparedness had gone well. The system had responded well to two separate test incidents taking place at the same time. Contingency planning would continue and further advice is now being distributed to GP surgeries and other NHS institutions to ensure staff were fully aware on what to do if they suspected a patient may have Ebola.

The Scottish Government Resilience Committee (SGoRR) met on Wednesday evening to discuss the latest developments in Scotland’s response to the Ebola outbreak in west Africa.

The meeting was attended by First Minister Alex Salmond, and Health Secretary Alex Neil, along with experts in infectious diseases from Health Protection Scotland and senior officials from the Scottish Government.

Ministers were updated on the latest situation in the three affected countries of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. They were also given updates on how Scotland’s health service is preparing for a possible case, and steps being taken by the oil industry to protect workers who are returning from west Africa.

The First Minister said: “The Scottish Government’s approach to Ebola is two-fold. First and foremost, we must make sure that Scotland is as prepared as possible to deal with the risk of an Ebola case appearing on our shores. Secondly, we must do all we can to help with the situation in west Africa to try and contain this infection and ultimately bring it under control. We have already donated £500,000 to help the World Health Organisation’s efforts to combat Ebola and we stand ready to provide further assistance as and when required.

“The risk of an Ebola case in Scotland remains low. However, we are far from complacent, and I am confident that Scotland’s health service is well prepared to deal with any suspected Ebola cases. We will continue to closely monitor the situation to ensure that all appropriate checks are in place to protect the people of Scotland.”

Mr Neil said: “Scotland has four infectious disease centres which are ready to deal with any suspected cases of Ebola-type diseases. We have ensured that guidance has been issued to health professionals to ensure that they are well equipped to know how to deal with any suspected cases, and we are well stocked with all the necessary protective equipment.

“Scotland has dealt with infectious diseases in the past, including swine flu and a case of viral haemorrhagic fever, similar to Ebola, in 2012. I am fully confident that we have the systems and expertise in place to cope well in this instance if required.”

The disease has killed around 4,500 people so far, mostly in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

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