"I came in the following morning and she was covered in blood. She wasn't breathing. I put her in a bag and left her next to her brother. She was a beautiful little girl."
Those were the stark words of a British nurse, Will Pooley, who volunteered to travel to Sierra Leone to treat victims of the Ebola outbreak. He was speaking at last week's Defeating Ebola conference, hosted by the UK government in London. At the end of his remarks, Mr Pooley eloquently summed up why the British government convened the conference, referring again to the little girl who died alongside her brother:
"I just don't know what happens if that's repeated a million times. And so I say, at all costs, we can't let that happen."
Britain and the other participants at the London conference agree. More than 3,000 people have already died. Every hour brings five more infections across West Africa. The situation is urgent. The human cost of inaction on Ebola is quite simply unthinkable. Events in London brought together health professionals, international organisations, governments, businesses and charities--all united by a shared hope that the conference will prove a turning point in the battle against this awful disease.
The 20 governments in attendance pledged hundreds of millions of dollars for the fight, as well as medical expertise and logistical support. Donors were not just Western countries. Cuba and El Salvador between them pledged to send up to 285 medical staff, while the United Arab Emirates offered help evacuating health workers. From the private sector, the British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline increased its contribution to $1.5 million. Every pledge, whatever its source, is hugely important.
The pledges made on Thursday are a start, but they are by no means the end. Combating this disease will require a huge international effort, bringing together both civilian and military resources. I am proud of the fact that British troops and medics are already serving together in Sierra Leone, constructing facilities and treating patients. Yesterday the Prime Minister's office announced that the UK will more than double the number of British personnel deployed to tackle Ebola.
These commitments, and those of our partners, are hugely important. But we also need ordinary people to do their part by giving generously. Please consider making a donation to one of the charities doing vital work in West Africa, like Save the Children, Comic Relief or Doctors Without Borders. All three are doing incredible work, but they can't continue without your generosity.
To see why your support is so badly needed, just think again of the British nurse, Will Pooley, who spoke so movingly at the London conference. While risking his life to serve the people of Sierra Leone, Mr Pooley himself contracted Ebola. Luckily, with the help of highly-trained British doctors and nurses, he survived the ordeal. Shortly after his recovery, Mr Pooley said he would soon go back to Sierra Leone to continue the fight against Ebola. That is the kind of bravery and determination we will need if we are to beat this virus. Heroes like Will Pooley deserve all the support we can give them. Let's make sure they get that support.