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Ebola survivor hailed at conference


Residents of a Liberian village watch members of District 13 ambulance service pick up six suspected Ebola sufferers (AP)

Residents of a Liberian village watch members of District 13 ambulance service pick up six suspected Ebola sufferers (AP)

Residents of a Liberian village watch members of District 13 ambulance service pick up six suspected Ebola sufferers (AP)

Will Pooley, the British nurse who has been cured of Ebola, is an example of the "courage" and resilience needed to tackle the Ebola crisis, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has said.

He was speaking at a press conference during an international summit in central London where countries pledged their support to efforts to try and tackle the deadly Ebola virus in Sierra Leone.

Mr Pooley, 29, is just back from a life-saving mission to the United States where he gave blood to try to help a victim of the virus.

Mr Hammond noted: "His body has considerable immune cells in the hope of helping to advance research into finding a vaccination against the disease.

"Yesterday he was helping to train health workers about to deploy to the region. Today he has been here acting as an ambassador for the crusade against Ebola at this conference."

Mr Pooley, of Suffolk, became the first Briton to contract the virus after working as a volunteer nurse in Sierra Leone, which is one of the worst-hit countries of the current outbreak.

He was flown back to Britain on August 24 and recovered after being treated at an isolation unit at London's Royal Free Hospital.

International Development Secretary Justine Greening said: "The picture painted by Will Pooley of his experience and the children he had cared for but who nevertheless died gave us a real sense of what this disease is doing to families and to people on the ground."

Among the pledges - aimed at containing, controlling and defeating Ebola - made at the conference was £70 million from Save the Children, of which £40 million had been earmarked for Sierra Leone.

Comic Relief pledged £1 million while GSK donated £300,000 for Save the Children's efforts in the region.

Cuba offered 63 doctors and 102 nurses, bringing its input to 181 Cuban medical staff who are set to help in Sierra Leone - many will be involved in training staff.

Australia pledged an additional 10 million US dollars (£6.2 million) to the UN Trust Fund and a two million US dollar (£1.2 million) contribution to the Department for International Development.

Finland, which has already given one million US dollars (£620,000) through the World Health Organisation and the Red Cross, said more money was in the pipeline.

Mr Hammond said: "What we have done today is increase the odds of success in the battle against this disease and increased the chances of hundreds of thousands of people in the region of surviving the disease."

Actor Idris Elba, whose parents are from Sierra Leone, also attended the conference and called for more to be done to tackle the epidemic sweeping across west Africa.

The star of The Wire, who played Nelson Mandela in the film Long Walk to Freedom said he wanted to use his fame to try to educate people about the disease and to encourage more support for those fighting it.

He said: "I was so encouraged in there today. There was a room full of people that form a task force, a Sierra Leone-led task force, the High Commissioner was there, and we were all talking the same language - what can we do quickly. We all realise the urgency of this but how can we pull together as a country quickly and be effective."

Experts have warned that the outbreak in West Africa has developed at an unprecedented scale with the current rate of infection standing at 1.7, meaning that for every 10 people who contract the virus a further 17 will be infected.

The UK Government has already promised a further £20 million aid to pay for vital medical supplies including chlorine, personal protection equipment such as masks, protection suits and gloves, and essential water and sanitation facilities.

It will also be used to deploy clinicians, global health experts, epidemiologists and infection control advisers from Public Health England, King's Health Partners and the United Nations.

But the Commons international development committee said that while that was a welcome move, far wider action was needed to reverse a failure to prioritise Sierra Leone and Liberia.

In a scathing report, the committee said the crisis "demonstrates the dangers of ignoring the least developed countries in the world", accusing ministers and aid agencies of switching focus to "higher-profile" places.

The MPs accused the Department for International Development (DfID) and the European Union of doing nothing to deal with the fact that tens of billions of pounds of EU-led health aid was not being passed on by Liberia's finance ministry.

"There is an alarming lack of capacity in the health system, including a shortage of skilled clinicians," the MPs said, noting that 10% of Sierra Leone's domestically-trained nurses are working in the UK health system.

The committee said it was "shocked" to discover that only 3.9 million US dollars (£2.4 million) of 60 million dollars (£37 million) EU health sector support was passed on by Liberia's ministry of finance to the ministry of health over a two-year period.

Committee chairman Sir Malcolm Bruce said the scale of the crisis "may well be connected to declining levels of international support for health system improvements" in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

"In the midst of this devastating epidemic, and at a time when the UK has reached its 0.7% target for overseas development assistance, it is wrong for the UK to cut its support to these two countries by nearly a fifth," he said.

After attending the summit, Diane Sheard, UK director of the ONE Campaign which fights extreme poverty and preventable diseases, said the conference had shown the importance of a co-ordinated and sustained response from the global community.

She said: "The focus now must be on delivering the necessary resources - from specialist personnel to protective clothing - as swiftly as possible.

"This is a global health emergency that presents a massive danger. Every day we delay is a missed opportunity to turn the tide of this crisis."

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