|Pickup trucks are loaded onto the RFA Argus. Picture: Crown Copyright 2014|
London October 21, 2014 - 32 UK-funded pickup trucks to assist efforts to defeat Ebola in Sierra Leone have been loaded aboard the Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship Argus during a planned stop at a British Naval Base in Gibraltar.
Throughout the day on Tuesday 21 October, the vehicles were lifted onto the deck of the ship where they will remain until the ship reaches Freetown later next week.
On arrival in Sierra Leone they will transport staff, medicines and equipment around the country.
Speaking from Sierra Leone, where she arrived today to visit UK funded Ebola treatment and training facilities, International Development Secretary Justine Greening said:
"These vehicles will be vital to keep Ebola treatment centres running across the country. From transporting medical supplies to ensuring treatment centres are well stocked with protective clothing, they will help increase capacity and capability as we work to control and defeat Ebola in Sierra Leone. I am in Freetown to see first-hand how British health workers, military personnel, humanitarian experts and engineers are leading the fight to tackle this dreadful disease. I have visited a UK-funded Ebola medic training facility and a British-run community care unit and am immensely proud of what we are already achieving on the ground and how that will scale up dramatically in the coming weeks."
There are currently more than 300 UK military personnel in Sierra Leone from all three services – Army, Navy and RAF - comprised of medics, engineers, logisticians and planners. The Royal Navy’s RFA Argus and its Merlin helicopters, along with highly-skilled personnel, left Falmouth on the 17 October and on arrival will provide further support to UK efforts to tackle the virus. By the end of October, Defence’s total contribution to the UK’s work to tackle Ebola in Sierra Leone will amount to around 750 personnel.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said:
I am hugely proud of the RFA Argus mission. It demonstrates clearly the UK’s determination to lead the World’s efforts to tackle the Ebola crisis. The loading of vital DFID vehicles on to the ship in Gibraltar en route to Sierra Leone highlights yet again that the permanent joint operating base there is of huge strategic importance to the UK.
My visit last week reinforced our deep commitment to Gibraltar. The Agreement which I signed with the Chief Minister not only paved the way for a multi-million pound investment in resurfacing Gibraltar’s runway, it will also result in the passage of legislation to put the Royal Gibraltar Regiment on the same footing as its UK counterparts.
The 32 Toyota Hilux Twin Cab vehicles will be used by DFID’s partners including NGOs and the UN in Sierra Leone and will be prioritised based on need upon arrival in country.
The UK has so far committed £125 million to tackle Ebola in Sierra Leone. This includes supporting 700 treatment beds to help up to 8,800 patients over 6 months, as well as shoring up the country’s stretched public health services to help contain the disease. This includes vital supplies such as chlorine and protective clothing for thousands of health workers.
During a visit last week the Defence Secretary re-affirmed UK support to Gibraltar with a package of new measures including a multi-million pound runway upgrade and stronger recognition for troops serving in the territory.
Ms Greening departed for Sierra Leone from RAF Brize Norton on the morning of Tuesday 21 October alongside a further 150 soldiers, mainly members of 35 Squadron, 5 Armoured Medical Regiment, Royal Army Medical Corps.