Defence Forces Personnel to assist in Ireland's Response to the Ebola Crisis in West Africa - Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade and Minister for Defence announce

By Ireland - Ministry of Foreign Affairs
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DUBLIN, Ireland, November 11, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Three members of the Irish Defence Forces are to deploy to Sierra Leone to reinforce Ireland's capacity in Sierra Leone as the international relief effort ramps up, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Minister for Defence today announced.

The three personnel, all of whom have vast collective experience in West Africa, will be deployed to the Embassy of Ireland in Freetown under the Emergency Civilian Assistance Team initiative, established by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to respond to international crises.

As one of a small number of countries with an embassy in Freetown, Ireland has been very active in working with our local and international partners to fight the ebola epidemic and the Defence Forces' deployment will bring key technical skills which will enhance the mission's ability to respond.

Their role will include reviewing and enhancing the embassy's contingency plans for security-related events and providing advice and support in logistics and emergency planning. They will not be working directly on the frontline of the ebola response.

The Minister for Defence also advised the Government that consideration is being given to the deployment of members of the Permanent Defence Force to be embedded as part of a UK Armed Forces Treatment Unit in Kerrytown, Sierra Leone. The facility provides UK standard Ebola Virus Disease treatment to International Healthcare Workers who are providing care to the Sierra Leone population.

Discussions are continuing between the Irish and UK authorities in order to determine the roles that may be assigned to the Irish personnel and to establish if the appropriate clinical competencies are available within the Defence Forces.

Speaking after the Cabinet meeting, Minister Flanagan said:

“The deployment of Defence Forces' personnel to the embassy in Sierra Leone is a clear example of the whole of government approach required to fight this dreadful disease. By bringing field experience in areas such as emergency planning and response, logistics and risk mitigation, those deployed will add a significant new dimension to the Ireland's contribution.”

Minister Coveney said:

“Irish Defence Forces personnel have a sterling record of service in support of humanitarian crisis across the globe. Working in partnership with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade under the ECAT initiative, and possibly with the UK Armed Forces, these soldiers will bring a wealth of experience that enhances Ireland's support to the people of Sierra Leone."

It is expected that the Defence Forces personnel assigned to the Embassy of Ireland in Freetown, will depart for Sierra Leone in the coming days. In partnership with our Embassy, the HSE and other Irish staff working for international and Irish NGOs, they again demonstrate clearly the long standing commitment of the Irish people to assisting the most vulnerable communities overseas.

Minister Coveney also said that: “the request received from Irish Aid Agencies, to consider sending volunteers to assist their teams in West Africa, is currently under consideration in the Department of Defence".

Since the first cases in March 2014, the current outbreak in West Africa is the largest and most complex Ebola outbreak since the virus was first discovered in 1976 with more cases and deaths in this outbreak than all others combined.

So far this year, Ireland has contributed over €17 million to the affected countries in West Africa including €4 million for Ebola treatment facilities in Sierra Leone and Liberia, two of the worst affected countries.