Ebola aid donated by UK to Sierra Leone

A World Health Organization worker trains nurses to use Ebola protective gear in Freetown, Sierra Leone Image copyright AP
Image caption Nurses in Sierra Leone have been trained by World Health Organization experts

The UK is donating hundreds of hospital beds to Sierra Leone as it fights to contain the Ebola virus.

Of the 700 beds to be donated, 200 are "in the pipeline", with the remaining 500 to be handed over in coming months.

British army engineers will also identify sites in Sierra Leone where treatment centres can be built.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond urged action to stop a "global catastrophe". The Ebola outbreak has already claimed more than 2,500 lives.

Vickie Hawkins, executive director of the main Ebola aid agency in West Africa, Medecins San Frontiers, welcomed the "increased commitment of resources from the UK government".

However, she added that the measures "must be put into place immediately if they are to have a real impact and save lives".

Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea are the countries worst-hit by the outbreak of the deadly disease, which is transmitted through sweat, blood and saliva.

Blood donation

The World Health Organization (WHO) says more than 2,500 people have been killed in West Africa. More than half of those have been in Liberia.

BBC international development correspondent Mark Doyle said doctors on the ground in Sierra Leone were desperately stretched and having to turn infected patients away.

On Friday, the Sierra Leone government started enforcing a three-day lockdown to try to stop the spread of the disease.

Image copyright AFP/Getty
Image caption Ebola is transmitted through sweat, blood and saliva

The population of the country is required to stay at home while volunteers go door to door to identify potential cases.

It was revealed earlier this week that the trial of an experimental vaccine for the Ebola virus was to begin in Oxford, with the first of 60 healthy volunteers injected with the vaccine.

Funding for the trial is coming from the Wellcome Trust, Medical Research Council, and the UK Department for International Development (DfID).

A British nurse who recovered from Ebola after contracting the virus in Sierra Leone has travelled to the US to donate blood to try to save the life of another victim.

US troops

Will Pooley, 29, was discharged from the Royal Free Hospital in north-west London two weeks ago, after receiving treatment in a special isolation unit.

As a survivor of the disease, Mr Pooley could help the victim recover because his blood will now contain natural antibodies that can help protect against Ebola.

Before the latest aid announcement, the UK had committed £5m to partners - including the WHO, the Red Cross and Medecins Sans Frontieres - to help fund things like the safer burial of victims, counselling for children orphaned by the disease, and expanding investigations into new Ebola cases.

According to DfID, a further £20.5m of UK support is helping to contain the disease through commitments to the likes of the African Development Bank, the World Bank, and the EU.

‎Meanwhile, the US has announced plans to send 3,000 troops to Liberia to help fight the virus, and the US military will oversee the building of new treatment centres and help to train medical staff.

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