UK secures €1 billion European Ebola commitment

By The Department for International Development (DFID

LONDON, United-Kingdom, October 24, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- The Prime Minister, David Cameron, has secured a €1 billion (£800 million) funding pledge at the European Council meetings in Brussels, following a call for European leaders to do more to fight the disease in West Africa.

As part of the commitment, the UK has boosted its own response to the Ebola crisis in West Africa by £80 million, bringing its total contribution to more than £200 million.

The Prime Minister wrote to the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, and fellow leaders last week to warn of the need to act fast to contain and defeat this deadly virus, stating that “if we do not significantly step up our collective response now, the loss of life and damage to the political, economic and social fabric of the region will be substantial and the threat posed to our citizens will also grow." The Prime Minister set out that the immediate priority was to raise contributions from the EU and its member states to €1 billion in total, which has now been achieved.

Britain's own redoubled efforts to fight Ebola follow a visit to Sierra Leone by International Development Secretary Justine Greening to see the results of Britain's first tranche of support and identify next steps in the UK's international work.

The additional £80 million will increase the number of burial units and support the creation of up to 200 community care centres across the country. Together these measures will promote early diagnosis, isolation and treatment and so reduce the risk of the infection spreading.

David Cameron said:

"Ebola not only represents a risk to the region but has the potential to become one of the biggest public health risks to the EU. That's why it's so important that we take action and why I made clear to my European counterparts that they needed to do much more. We have now secured €1 billion in commitments across Europe and Britain is leading the way with an additional £80m. We must not underestimate the scale of the challenge we face and the action that will be needed.”

Justine Greening said:

“Visiting Sierra Leone was a chance to see the results we are already achieving in our fight against Ebola. This includes the heroic efforts of British medics, soldiers and humanitarian workers, as well as Sierra Leoneans who are volunteering in their thousands to be trained as healthcare and burial workers.

“Being on the ground also gave me a clear sense of what is needed in the next phase of our work, and the steps we must take to ensure our efforts match the scale of the crisis the country is facing.

"Britain is determined to stand with the people of Sierra Leone as they battle Ebola."

The additional support announced today includes the following:

£10 million to ensure safe burials

This funding will include support for the important work of the burial teams run by the International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC). Ten teams are already fully operational and the IFRC have begun recruitment to increase their capacity. It will also support NGOs in their work to help the Sierra Leonean Ministry of Health in promoting behaviour change activities to ensure safe burial practices.

£50 million to diagnose and isolate Ebola cases

Early isolation of Ebola patients is essential to halting the spread of infection to others. This support will cover the staffing and running costs, as well medical supplies and protective equipment, for local diagnosis and care centres already being piloted across Sierra Leone – and enable the construction of up to 200 centres over the next three months. This will ensure thousands of patients across Sierra Leone receive a swift diagnosis and provide the isolation facilities needed to reduce the spread of the outbreak.

£20 million contribution to the UN Multi-Partner Trust Fund

This will ensure the UN has the resources needed to significantly step up their contribution to the Ebola effort in Sierra Leone and gives us a strong platform to lobby other countries to contribute to the global effort.

Ms Greening's recent visit was also an opportunity to thank the British heroes who have travelled to Sierra Leone to fight this disease, including humanitarian aid workers, medics, government officials and military personnel, all of whom are playing a crucial role in Britain's response.

Notes to editors

• Current estimates suggest that the rate of infection stands at 1.7, meaning for every ten people who contract Ebola, 17 more will become infected. However, if infected people are isolated quickly after they contract the disease, they are much less likely to pass it on to their families and communities.