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UK must be serious about threat from Ebola, minister urges

By George Ryan, PA Parliamentary Reporter

The UK must increase its aid spending in order to tackle the growing threat of Ebola, the International Development Secretary has urged.

Rory Stewart, who said he has just returned from the Ebola-struck region of Beni and Butembo in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), urged MPs to be "serious" about the threat of the deadly disease.

Tory MP James Duddridge (Rochford and Southend East) asked what lessons had been learnt "to help countries become more resistant to Ebola particularly in the health sector".

Mr Stewart told MPs: "There is an Ebola outbreak now in Congo that has already crossed the border to Uganda.

"We had an outbreak in Goma (DRC) a city of two million people on Sunday.

"If we do not get this under control this, which is already the second biggest Ebola outbreak in history, will cause devastating problems for the region.

"We must invest much more in the World Health Organisation, in developing the public health services in the neighbouring countries and above all step up to the challenge and be serious as a nation about this deadly disease."

In what could be his last Commons appearance in his current role, Mr Stewart made a bid to increase the number of British civil servants working overseas on development.

He said: "The central challenge in international development going forward is going to be the quality, the expertise and the number our permanent staff on the ground.

"As international development becomes more complex, with conflict and climate, as we have to work closely with other Government departments, and above all in a world in which countries are looking not for money but for expertise, what we will have to do over the next 15 years is increase the expertise, increase the quality, but above all the number of civil servants moving away from short-term consultants to having British experts on the ground."