British troops to build Ebola treatment centre

British troops to build Ebola treatment centre

The British military will build and staff an emergency medical centre in Sierra Leone to treat victims of the deadly Ebola virus outbreak

By Ben Farmer, Defence Correspondent4:59PM BST 08 Sep 2014

British troops will be sent to Sierra Leone to build an emergency treatment centre for victims of the deadly Ebola virus, the Government has said.

A survey team of military engineers will be sent within days, as doctors and aid workers try to halt an epidemic which has killed at least 2,100 people across West Africa.

Armed Forces’ engineers and medics will build and staff the 62-bed centre near the capital, Freetown, until it is handed over to an aid agency. The first stage of the centre will be ready within two months.

Mark Francois, Minister for Armed Forces, said: “The people of West Africa need our help and we will not stand idly by.

“The UK has been at the forefront of responding to the epidemic and our military will continue the great work so far.

“This operation will involve a unique set of challenges but I believe that we have the ability to provide support to the World Health Organisation, in helping to bring the outbreak under control.”

Defence sources said it was not yet known how many Armed Forces personnel would be needed, but they would be from all three services. The centre will have a 50-bed facility for treating victims and another 12-bed unit to provide specialist care for health workers.

West Africa is being ravaged by the worst ever outbreak of the Ebola haemorrhagic fever, which in some cases is killing up to 90 per cent of those infected. The region’s rudimentary health system has been unable to cope with the flood of victims and many medical staff have also fallen ill.

Justin Forsyth, Save the Children chief executive, said the aid agency was working with the British Government to set the centre up, then take it over with international experts and local staff.

He said: “Without urgent action to assist medics, many more children and their families will suffer and die from this most appalling and tragic disease.”

African Union chiefs held an emergency meeting Monday to hammer out a continent-wide strategy to deal with the epidemic.

In the scramble to halt the virus’s spread, countries have banned flights, closed borders and imposed quarantines on whole regions.

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