Today, (Saturday, 2 September) the Daily Mail has reported on £1.6 million worth of medication that was not used following the Ebola crisis three years ago.
The UK led the international fight against Ebola, helping to end the outbreak in West Africa and stopping the virus spreading around the world. It was firmly in all our interests to not allow this disease to spread further.
What the article doesn’t take into account is that the UK redistributed £3 million of surplus medicines and equipment bought for the Ebola response to other disasters around the world, including Haiti, Yemen, Iraq, Nigeria and most recently to help with the fatal outbreak of H1N1 in Burma. This achieved value for money for UK taxpayers.
By pre-positioning critical supplies such as medicines governments such as the Government of Sierra Leone were able respond quickly to the Ebola crisis, saving countless lives.
Given this, the figure reported on by the Daily Mail must be put into context:
- DFID purchased goods and equipment based on a ‘worst-case’ scenario to ensure sufficient supplies were in place to tackle the epidemic effectively. Saving lives was preferable to any risk that insufficient supplies would be available to stop this deadly disease outbreak at source. It was firmly in our interest to not allow this disease to spread further.
- These surplus pharmaceuticals were required to be destroyed in line with World Health Organisation guidelines, as they had expired, or were reaching expiry, and could not be safely used.
- DFID committed £427 million to tackling the Ebola crisis and the figure referenced by the Daily Mail represents less than 1% of the total spend.
Just last month, the UK once again was among one of the first to assist Sierra Leone in its time of need and we announced an emergency £5 million package of vital humanitarian assistance following the floods and mudslide in Freetown. Essential supplies such as medicines, food, water, clothing and sanitation facilities were immediately available to the thousands of people who had lost their homes, possessions and loved ones.
The UK is committed to helping the world’s poorest and we cannot stand back and abandon our moral obligation in helping those most in need.