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Tim Cole

Former British Ambassador to Cuba

Part of UK in Cuba

19th September 2014 Havana, Cuba

We need to fight Ebola together

The Cuban government’s decision to send 165 medical staff to West Africa to fight Ebola is very welcome. Working alongside national health workers, international NGO staff, epidemiologists and military staff from a number of countries including the UK, these Cuban doctors and nurses will play a crucial role in the world’s response to this terrible disease.

The situation in West Africa is extremely worrying and growing worse by the day. In Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, over 2,600 people have already died, more than twice that number have been infected and the virus is spreading fast. The number of Ebola cases in Sierra Leone is doubling every 30 days. This is an unprecedented humanitarian emergency that constitutes a threat to international peace and security. If we fail to act now, as we must, it threatens to become a global catastrophe.

Yesterday the UN Security Council, agreeing a resolution sponsored by a record 130 countries, called for a global response. With health systems in the affected countries under pressure and the food security situation deteriorating as many of those families affected by the disease can’t farm or work, an immediate global response is exactly what is needed.

Like Cuba, the United Kingdom is playing its part. Work has already started on a 62-bed treatment centre near Freetown which is being built and operated by British military and humanitarian experts. We have also provided support to national governments, UN agencies and non-governmental organisations like the Red Cross and Medecins sans Frontières to provide treatment and care of patients, ensure safe burial of victims, improve the tracing of Ebola cases, provide sanitation facilities at treatment centres, train frontline health workers and help co-ordinate the response. Yesterday the Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond announced a significantly increased package of support, at the heart of which is a commitment to lead and underwrite the provision of a total of 700 treatment beds for Sierra Leone.

As there is no known cure for Ebola we are also using science to attack the disease. Clinical trials have started in the UK with the aim of developing a vaccine; if successful, this work could lead to stocks being made available immediately for emergency immunisation in high risk communities. We also have funding available for research anywhere in the world which could produce evidence to better understand Ebola and to help manage the current and any future outbreak.

I’m proud that my government has made such a contribution. Before becoming a diplomat I spent many years working in Central African countries devastated by conflict and humanitarian disaster. I learned then how important it is for governments to step up and support the world’s poorer countries in their battle against disease and food insecurity. I’m sure that Cubans are also proud of the commitment their government has made to fight Ebola. Others have stepped up too. For example, the US government will send 3,000 troops to Liberia where they will set up 17 treatment centres and train hundreds of health workers. And the Gates Foundation has pledged $50 million.

These commitments and contributions are all vitally important but a global response, as the UN Security Council set out yesterday, is urgently needed. Without one, the outbreak could spiral out of control and tens of thousands of people or more could be infected and die, affecting families and communities for a generation. For this reason we all need to act now, without hesitation, with speed, in a spirit of solidarity, and with a firm determination that we will end this terrible outbreak.

2 comments on “We need to fight Ebola together

  1. Dear Tim ,

    I ‘m sorry but I ‘ve just forgotten 2 important things in re. of yr. “EBOLA-Report” above. For it ‘s clear : if you mentioned a shortenage like ECOWAS – it ‘s a MUST to explain the meaning of it . So here we go : ECOWAS : Economic Community Of West African States. Founded : May, 1975 in Lagos / Nigeria. Member – in alphabetical orde : Benin , Burkina Faso , Gambia , Ghana , Guinea , Guina – Bissau, Ivory Coast, Kap Verde , Liberia , Mali , Niger , Nigeria , Senegal , Sierra Leone , Togo.

    Best wishes & a peaceful day, Grüßle & pass gut auf Dich auf,

    Ingo-Steven , Stuttgart

  2. Dear Tim ,
    like you I do also think that Cuba ‘s decision to send medical staff to Guina , Liberia & Sierra Leone isn ‘t only welcome for later the entire ECOWAS Group of West Africa will also follow.But in fact , help is also badly needed.Alongside with all the described NGO ‘s. I also wanna thank you for drawing attention to EBOLA-disaster. Esp. via this blog. Normally, you only hear the sad facts via TV. Asking yourself : well, it ś horrible- but what can I do ? So & at least you can response to yr.lines. Hoping that others will join. Just great : UK ‘s strong support & contribution to help the victims. I ‘m only disappointed that other (EU-) states don ‘t follow this example.

    Best wishes & take care of yourself , liebe Grüßle & oin schöner Abend,
    Ingo-Steven , Stuttgart

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About Tim Cole

Hi! I’m Tim Cole, the British Ambassador to Cuba. I arrived in Havana in August 2012 and presented my credentials as British Ambassador the following month. I’ve been a diplomat…

Hi! I’m Tim Cole, the British Ambassador to Cuba. I arrived in Havana in August 2012 and presented my credentials as British Ambassador the following month. I’ve been a diplomat since 2001; before Cuba, I spent 5 years in London where I worked on Pan-African policy and global economic issues and 6 years in southern Africa as Deputy Head of Mission in Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Most of my career has been in Africa as before joining the FCO I ran humanitarian aid programmes in Central Africa for the British NGOs Christian Aid and Save the Children. I’m married to Clare and we have 2 children – Jonathan and Zea.

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