Cuts in the UK’s aid to Sierra Leone and Liberia may have played a part in the rapid spread of Ebola, according to MPs.
The international development select committee says Britain’s reduced funding to the west African countries could have helped compromise their health systems, which have disintegrated in the face of the epidemic, exacting a heavy death toll on health workers as well as patients.
The report comes as world leaders and public health experts are gathering in London for a conference to raise awareness about the Ebola virus
Philip Hammond, the UK foreign secretary, Justine Greening, UK development secretary, and Ernest Bai Koroma, president of Sierra Leone, will be among those taking part at the Defeating Ebola event at Lancaster House in central London on Thursday.
Participating countries will discuss how the global community can provide an effective response to the crisis in West Africa. They are expected to announce pledges to support the international effort to defeat the disease, with both the UK and Sierra Leone urging them to contribute extra funding for hospital beds and staff.
“The scale of the Ebola crisis now unfolding in Sierra Leone and Liberia may well be connected to declining levels of international support for health system improvements in what remain two of the poorest and least developed countries in the world,” said the committee chair and Liberal Democrat MP Sir Malcolm Bruce.
“In the midst of this devastating epidemic, and at a time when the UK has reached its 0.7% target for overseas development assistance, it is wrong for the UK to cut its support to these two countries by nearly a fifth. The planned termination of further UK funding to the Liberian health sector is especially unwise.