Irish soldiers to go to Sierra Leone to help in fight against Ebola

Ireland one of the few western countries with an embassy in Freetown

Police officers hold up posters about Ebola in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Photograph: Youssouf Bah/AP

Police officers hold up posters about Ebola in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Photograph: Youssouf Bah/AP

 

Three members of the Defence Forces will be sent to Sierra Leone as part of Ireland’s contribution to the fight against Ebola, according to a proposal to come before Cabinet today.

The three soldiers will be based in the Irish Embassy in Freetown and will carry out a number of assignments in the areas of security, logistics and emergency planning over a three-month period, according to sources.

Minister for Defence Simon Coveney and Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan are due to present a joint memo to Cabinet setting out the proposal.

Mr Coveney, who chairs the Government’s emergency planning committee, will also provide an update on measures taken to minimise the risk of the disease spreading to Ireland.

A full statement on the deployment is expected to issue after the Cabinet meeting today.

Previous experience

Africa

The British army has recently constructed a treatment unit in Sierra Leone, while US forces are building a similar unit in Liberia.

Ireland is one of the few western countries with an embassy in Sierra Leone. Its three-person staff, headed by Ambassador Sinead Walsh, has been working flat out since the epidemic began six months ago.

Ireland has provided €4 million in direct support and €17 million in direct, NGO and Government support to help fight the current outbreak of Ebola, which has mainly affected Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.

Almost 5,000 people have died in the outbreak, the largest since Ebola emerged in the 1970s, and 13,500 people have been infected.

The number of new cases appears to be levelling off in Liberia, the worst affected country, but is still accelerating in Sierra Leone and Guinea.

Decline in cases

The medical charity suggested that a new, more flexible approach was needed to combat sudden flare-ups of cases in specific areas.

In the Republic, tests have been carried out on 14 people for the disease, but all were negative.

A patient in Belfast, who has malaria, tested negative for Ebola yesterday.