News story

UK Merlins deliver aid to continue Ebola effort

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

Royal Navy helicopters have delivered essential materials to Northern Sierra Leone as part of the UK’s ongoing efforts to tackle Ebola.

Responding to a United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) request, a Merlin helicopter from 820 Naval Air Squadron lifted urgent supplies for a support camp to be built near a community care centre in Kumala.

The centre is a 28-bed facility for the care of Ebola patients, including young children under the age of 5. Because it is in a mountainous area the centre is currently not accessible by road.

The Merlin helicopters flew 6 heavy loads of building materials, suspended below the aircraft, from the WFP hub in Port Loko.

Over 5 days 5.5 tonnes of equipment was transported which will be used to help keep the community centre operational.

Lieutenant Roger Angliss, 820 Naval Air Squadron, said:

This is the first time that we have been asked to complete a mission of this type.

We have flown many missions since deploying to Sierra Leone that have been in support of the UK effort on the ground, but this mission was crucial to the people of Kumala, as it is so remote.

Without our help they could have gone weeks without trained health care workers to help them fight Ebola and I think I can speak for the whole crew when I say that we are extremely proud of the fact that we could help this small, remote community.

We are looking forward to helping others in the near future too.

A Royal Navy Merlin helicopter delivers supplies
A Royal Navy Merlin helicopter delivers supplies for the medical teams and aid experts working in country [Picture: Lieutenant Steve Dunning, Crown copyright]

The staff from the UN agencies and their non-governmental organisation partners, including World Health Organisation, UNICEF and Oxfam, urgently require safe accommodation so they could continue to support the centre.

The units, delivered by the Royal Navy’s Merlin helicopters, will be assembled within a week to support 30 people working there, providing supervision and training to staff working there.

Mark Warne-Smith, WFP, said:

The UK Military assisted with what would have been a major logistical challenge if the building materials had to be moved by road.

It would probably have taken weeks rather than days.

The UK has so far committed £230 million to tackle Ebola. This includes:

  • supporting 700 treatment beds, more than tripling Sierra Leone’s capacity
  • providing care to up to 8,800 patients over 6 months
  • shoring up the country’s stretched public health services to help contain the disease.

In addition, RFA Argus and 3 Merlin helicopters have been deployed to deliver transportation and logistical support for medical teams and aid experts working in the country.

Hundreds of defence personnel are working in Sierra Leone to help tackle Ebola.