A UK ship arrived in Sierra Leone, on 30 October, to help deal with the deadly Ebola outbreak in the West African country.
Royal Fleet Auxillary Argus set sail from Falmouth in Cornwall on 17 October and is carrying food, medical equipment and 32 pick-up trucks, to help keep hard-pressed Ebola treatment centres going. Doctors, nurses and military personnel are also on board. It is also carrying three Royal Navy Merlin helicopters. The ship has docked in the capital, Freetown.
Ebola has killed nearly 5,000 people and infected more than 10,000 in West Africa since March.
The BBC’s Africa correspondent Andrew Harding said it would act as an offshore base for the aid effort, and described it as an “important moment”. He said there was now the “beginnings of hope” in Freetown that the giant international aid effort was beginning to get under way.
At 28,000 tonnes, the ship is one of the Royal Navy’s larger support vessels, but despite having its own onboard hospital, it will not be used to directly treat anyone who has come into contact with the virus. If any of the crew or the Royal Marines on board become infected they would be kept in isolation, and then taken to one of the clinics on the ground.
The ship also transported 35 pallets of ration packs, more than 5,000 bottles of water, and a water osmosis plant, the Royal Navy said.
Speaking from Freetown, RFA Argus commanding officer Captain David Eagles said the helicopters were a “game changer” in the fight against the disease.
“To be able to fly equipment and experts right into the heart of the areas it is needed will be a fundamental change in the way we do business. It will give the effort ashore much greater agility and velocity to deliver the mission,” he told Sky News. “For the people on-board the ship, it is just simply a case of rolling up their sleeves and getting in and contributing as best we can, and our people are very much looking forward to that.”
The UK, which has pledged £205m in aid, is leading the international response to the disease in Sierra Leone, a member of the Commonwealth which won independence from Britain in 1961.
In all, the UK is deploying about 750 military personnel to help tackle Ebola in Sierra Leone, the Ministry of Defence has said. Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has described the RFA Argus mission as a sign of the nation’s “determination to lead the world’s efforts to tackle the Ebola crisis”.
Credit: BBC news
Photo: RFA Argus, BBC News