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The Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) aviation support ship Argus has begun offloading vital equipment and stores to aid the fight against Ebola.
RFA Argus arrived in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, this morning and immediately began offloading Department for International Development (DfID) supplies and 32 off-road vehicles.
Working in support of the government of Sierra Leone and DfID and military personnel based in the country, Argus will now play an important logistical role.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said:
I am immensely proud of the commitment our troops – both regular and reserve – who are playing a pivotal role in delivering Britain’s response to the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone.
The arrival of RFA Argus reinforces the great work already done ashore and demonstrates how the British military’s expertise will be used to support the government of Sierra Leone as together we tackle the spread of this appalling disease.
Three Merlin Mk2 helicopters, from 820 Naval Air Squadron, will be used to help British Army medical teams, stores and aid experts move quickly around the country in their race to help tackle the Ebola Virus.
Two landing craft vehicles and 3 rigid hull inflatable boats, from 539 Assault Squadron Royal Marines, will be used for moving equipment and personnel inland along Sierra Leone’s river network.
En route to Sierra Leone all the ship’s company and other military forces on board have attended mandatory counter-Ebola training and briefing sessions to prepare for the operation.
The UK effort in Sierra Leone is being led by DfID. Director of the DFID-led Joint Ebola Taskforce Donal Brown said:
The Argus’ versatile helicopters and our fleet of vehicles will speed up the delivery of emergency supplies and personnel across the country.
This will give a tremendous boost to our fight against Ebola. Working directly with the Sierra Leonean authorities, they will quickly direct assistance to where it is needed most.
The arrival of Argus is the latest deployment in a joint defence operation to assist the UK aid mission, with around 800 deployed personnel involved in total.
RAF personnel are based at Accra in Ghana supporting the movement of equipment and personnel, and in Sierra Leone as part of the joint command team which is supporting the international aid effort.
Personnel from 5 Medical Regiment, are helping to train more than 800 local healthcare workers at the Ebola Training Academy.
Those healthcare workers will work in community care treatment centres across the country.
Meanwhile Royal Engineers have overseen the construction of 5 treatment units, which will provide 700 beds and become available for use by the end of November.
In addition the Kerry Town Treatment Centre is scheduled to open for patients in the next few days.
Part of this facility will be manned by medics from 22 Field Hospital, Royal Army Medical Corps, and will provide care to national and international healthcare workers.
More than 20 Army reservists have this week been called up to help run the Kerry Town Treatment Centre for healthcare workers.
The reservists – medical professionals who all volunteered specifically for the Ebola operation – will deploy in December.