Concord Times (Freetown)

Sierra Leone: UK Govt Intervenes to Stem Cholera Deaths - Activates New Rapid Response Facility

The UK government has activated its new rapid response facility for the first time to help Sierra Leone deal with its biggest cholera outbreak for more than two decades. The facility supports a network that includes private businesses and specialist aid organisations who will rapidly deliver emergency medical, water and sanitation assistance to affected people.

The British Government has also promised to 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 up to 4,500 people affected by the epidemic.

The UK's Department for International Development (DFID) will ship anti-cholera drugs and water purification kits directly for use by those fighting the epidemic. UK aid will spend £2m on: scaling up emergency water and sanitation activities nationally, reaching nearly two million people, including women, children and the most vulnerable; and directly treating up to 4,500 people affected by cholera.

Six aid organisations are being mobilised as part of the response: 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, who will supply the majority of the aid organisation's relief supplies and logistics in the coming days.

Speaking in London, the UK's Secretary of State for International Development, 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."

The UK response will coordinate closely with the Presidential Task Force, set up to lead the response, and complement the efforts of key UN agencies, including the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the UN Children's Fund UNICEF).

Dr Phil Evans, Head of DFID Sierra Leone said: "It is essential that everyone involved in tackling the cholera outbreak works closely together to bring this to a quick end. We will make sure that all UK assistance is tightly coordinated with State House, the Ministry of Health and the UN. In addition to the funding we are providing to step up the response, we will also be sending a humanitarian expert to help with coordination."

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