LONDON/BERLIN: A letter to UK aid minister Justine Greening from a group of health organizations and doctors fighting Ebola in Sierra Leone claims many of its members are "struggling to deliver [resources] because of extortionate logistical costs".
The UK-Sierra Leone Health Partners Network and its supporters are calling on the UK government to persuade the U.N. to provide more logistical support: "The office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs can provide a cost-effective and efficient humanitarian relief supply chain via companies such as DHL when called upon to act by member states. This has yet to be done and is a significant barrier to relief efforts."
The group also says the UK Department for Transport's decision last month to suspend the Gambia Bird (right) permit to operate its A319 service between Gatwick and Freetown was "ill advised" and contradicted travel advice from the World Health Organization:
"Forcing people from the UK to travel to West Africa via Europe significantly impedes efforts to deliver humanitarian aid and monitor returning travellers. This knee-jerk response is putting UK nationals on the ground at risk by leaving them under-equipped and understaffed, putting our own population at greater risk by undermining efforts to tackle Ebola at its source, and having a devastating impact on the Sierra Leonean economy." The group says it wants the flight ban lifted.
As of November 28 the U.N. World Food Programme says it has delivered 21,000 tonnes of food to 1.6 million people, transported 2,771 aid workers via the U.N. Humanitarian Air Service, and carried 26,320 tonnes of cargo to the virus-stricken region.
Meanwhile in a related move, the German Foreign Ministry has taken delivery in Berlin of a converted Lufthansa A340 for use as an evacuation hospital for Ebola patients returning from West Africa.
With advice from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) - one of Germany's leading institutions for health protection - earlier this month Lufthansa Technik converted the aircraft by removing seats, kitchens, lavatories and baggage lockers from its interior and installing an isolation unit (left) surrounded by airtight tents.
With room for 19 doctors, nurses and technicians at the front of the A340, Lufthansa says 700 pilots and cabin crew have volunteered to fly the re-named "Robert Koch" aircraft for the next six months.
On November 28 the U.N. reported a total of 15,935 confirmed, probable, and suspected cases of the Ebola virus and 5,689 deaths.