‘What happens when Ebola kills a million?’

William Pooley warned of the dangers of ignoring Ebola's spread. Picture: Reuters
William Pooley warned of the dangers of ignoring Ebola's spread. Picture: Reuters
Share this article
Have your say

The British nurse who contracted the Ebola virus in Sierra Leone has called for action to stop the “horror and the misery” he witnessed there.

Recalling his “despair” at the death of a girl he treated, ­William Pooley said: “I just don’t know what happens if that’s ­repeated a million times.”

The 29-year-old was speaking during a summit in London yesterday to discuss the global response to the crisis.

Charity Save The Children warned that Ebola was spreading across Sierra Leone at a ­“terrifying rate”.

It is the world’s worst outbreak of the virus, killing 3,338 people so far with 7,178 confirmed cases since March. Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea are suffering most.

Experts and politicians from around the world were at the summit, where countries and charities pledged support to efforts to try to tackle the virus.

Mr Pooley, who was the first Briton to contract Ebola during the current outbreak, appealed to the international community to act to prevent the epidemic getting worse.

The volunteer nurse, from Suffolk, was flown back to the UK by the RAF in August having contracted the virus while helping patients in Sierra Leone.

He was treated in a special ­isolation unit at the Royal Free Hospital, where he was given the experimental drug, ZMapp, and has made a full recovery.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said Mr Pooley, who recently returned from the United States where he gave blood to try to help a victim of the virus, was an example of the “courage” and resilience needed to tackle the crisis.

Among the pledges made at the conference – aimed at containing, controlling and defeating Ebola – was £70 million from Save The Children, of which £40m had been earmarked for Sierra Leone.

Comic Relief pledged £1m while GlaxoSmithKline donated £300,000 for Save The Children’s efforts in the region.

Cuba offered 63 doctors and 102 nurses, bringing its input to 181 medical staff in Sierra Leone.

Australia pledged an additional £6.2m to the United Nations Trust Fund and a £1.2m contribution to the Department for International Development.

Mr Hammond said: “What we have done today is increase the odds of success in the battle against this disease and increased the chances of hundreds of thousands of people in the region of surviving the disease.”

Actor Idris Elba, whose parents are from Sierra Leone, also attended the conference and called for more to be done to tackle the epidemic. The star of The Wire and Luther said he wanted to use his fame to try to educate people about the disease and to encourage more support for those fighting it. He said: “I was so encouraged in there today. We all realise the urgency of this and how can we pull together and be effective.”

The UK government has already promised a further £20m in aid for vital medical supplies including chlorine, personal protection equipment such as masks, bio-hazard suits and gloves, and essential water and sanitation facilities.

But the Commons international development committee said far wider action was needed to reverse a failure to prioritise Sierra Leone and Liberia.

In a scathing report, the committee said the crisis “demonstrates the dangers of ignoring the least developed countries in the world”, accusing ministers and aid agencies of switching focus to “higher-profile” places.