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Sierra Leone: UK rapid response to tackle cholera

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The UK Government has activated its new rapid response network for the first time, to help two million people affected by the cholera outbreak in Sierra Leone.

The UK Government has activated its new rapid response network for the first time, to help two million people affected by the cholera outbreak in Sierra Leone, International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell has announced.

The network includes private businesses and specialist aid organisations who will rapidly deliver emergency medical, water and sanitation assistance to affected people. The British Government will also help set up emergency water and sanitation activities nationally, reaching nearly two million people, including women, children and the most vulnerable. The UK will also provide direct treatment for to up to 4,500 people affected by cholera.

The UK will ship anti-cholera drugs and water purification kits directly for use by those fighting the epidemic.

The UK, through the Department for International Development (DFID), will enable aid organisations and business members of the Rapid Response Facility (RRF) to mount a British response. This will involve:

  • Scaling up emergency water and sanitation activities nationally, reaching nearly two million people, including women, children and the most vulnerable
  • Directly treating up to 4,500 people affected by cholera.

Six aid organisations are being mobilised as part of the RRF: Save the Children, International Rescue Committee, Oxfam, Concern, Care International and the British Red Cross.

DFID has also been working closely with private sector partners and expects them to supply the majority of the aid organisations’ relief supplies and logistics in the coming days.

Andrew Mitchell said:

“The cholera epidemic in Sierra Leone is fast becoming a crisis, with millions potentially at risk. The UK is - for the first time - activating the Rapid Response Facility, its network of private sector and aid experts to make sure we get aid to where it is needed, fast.

“Not only will our response be rapid, it will be efficient. We will monitor closely to make sure every penny of British aid achieves results and supports those in dire need. Urgent action is required to halt the spread of disease and save lives - Britain is leading the way.”

Cholera has spread quickly across West Africa, getting significantly worse in the last few weeks, with almost half those infected in Sierra Leone - the worst epidemic in the country for two decades. Estimates so far are that 200 people have died, with more than 12,000 cases being reported and millions more are at risk, unless the international community takes quick action. The outbreak has been most severe in the capital, Freetown, which has a dangerous mix of poor sanitation, high population density and limited health services. A swift response is essential to bring the epidemic under control.

£2 million has been provided from the UK for the response. DFID are also bringing in a humanitarian expert to support coordination in Sierra Leone, to ensure a rapid response to cholera in Sierra Leone and value for money for UK taxpayers.

Secretary of State for International Development, Andrew Mitchell, established the Rapid Response Facility (RRF) in March. The RRF enables The UK Government to commit to rapid humanitarian funding for pre-qualified partners. Responding swiftly in humanitarian disasters ensures that more lives are saved and suffering reduced.