The UK is providing fresh support to help tackle the ongoing Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt will announce today (Wednesday 23 May).
This new UK aid support will help the World Health Organisation (WHO) to monitor the spread of the disease, identify and diagnose cases, trace people at risk of infection, support the vaccination campaign, and treat the sick. It will also strengthen the DRC’s own health systems to treat and appropriately manage the growing number of cases of the disease. This extra £5 million in funding means the UK is currently one of the largest country donors to the response.
Ms Mordaunt will also set out an additional package of support which is strengthening the ability of countries across Africa to prepare and quickly respond to deadly diseases including Ebola, Zika and Yellow Fever, using valuable lessons learned from the 2014 Ebola epidemic in West Africa.
This support has already led to vast improvements in the speed and effectiveness of the Government of DRC and WHO’s response to the current outbreak.
International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt said:
The UK has acted swiftly to scale up the response to this outbreak of Ebola, a horrific disease which we know has the potential to cause devastating loss of life.
Our support is vital in helping to contain Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and stop it spreading to other countries – and ultimately the UK.
As part of a co-ordinated international response we have already helped to send thousands of UK aid-funded vaccines to the country and a team of three UK experts is set to deploy.
In addition, the UK is not just waiting for the next outbreak to come along. We’re working to improve the ability of vulnerable and high-risk countries across Africa to detect and tackle outbreaks quickly and effectively. This is keeping us all safe from current and future global health emergencies.
Professor Dame Sally Davies, England’s Chief Medical Officer, said:
Ebola has the potential to devastate a country – that’s why we need an expert and rapid response to this outbreak, led by the DRC government, and in partnership with the WHO and global community to tackle this deadly virus.
The UK government will continue to support the DRC and WHO to halt this deadly disease and make sure it does not cross borders. Our expert Public Health Rapid Support Team is soon to be deployed and we will continue to monitor the situation closely.
In addition to this new support, following the Ebola outbreak of 2014, UK aid worked with Wellcome to develop an experimental vaccine for the disease. Thousands of doses of this vaccine are currently being targeted at those most at risk in the DRC.
Three experts from the UK Public Health Rapid Support Team – two epidemiologists and a data scientist – are also being deployed to the DRC to assist UK aid partners in tracking the spread of the disease so that it can be tackled quickly and effectively.
The UK is also helping to fund the rapid response through its major contributions to the UN’s Central Fund for Emergencies, and the WHO’s Contingency Fund for Emergencies, both of which have released $2 million to fund surveillance, diagnosis and treatment operations. The UK is the largest donor to the UN Fund and the second largest donor to the WHO Fund.
Notes to Editors
This £5 million package of new support is taken from DFID’s Crisis Reserve, and is being provided immediately to the World Health Organisation’s response plan for at least the next three months.
Following the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone 2014-2016, the UK focussed on establishing better international global health preparedness and crisis response mechanisms which could be mobilised rapidly. This work has proven effective in this outbreak to date and we judge that WHO’s greatly improved performance is in significant part due to these measures put in place.
The Tackling Deadly Diseases in Africa Programme (£40 million) builds on this support to further strengthen long-term preparedness, detection and response to serious diseases in particularly high-risk countries across Africa, including the DRC. Part of this package will support the WHO to improve country health systems and improve surveillance and monitoring of diseases which have the potential to destroy communities. The programme also contains an additional contingency mechanism, to be drawn upon in the event of serious outbreaks, and use of which is allowing the UK to respond swiftly to the current situation in the DRC.
Investing in health systems early is important and good value for money, because it enhances the world’s ability to prevent epidemics, rather than reacting to the next crisis. Evidence suggests that for every £1 invested in preparation a £2 return can be achieved in terms of savings on future spend and investments.
This new funding is in addition to £1 million which DFID made available from its joint research initiative on epidemic preparedness with Wellcome. Wellcome has also made a further £2 million available to deal with the Ebola outbreak, which is being used to help roll out the vaccine campaign.
The Department for Health and Social Care provided an additional £4 million to the World Health Organisation’s Contingency Fund For Emergencies in March 2018. The UK is the second largest donor to this Fund, which has activated to respond to the outbreak.
Public Health England has assessed the risk of this outbreak to the UK as negligible to very low.