British aid helped avert plague catastrophe - Mordaunt

An outbreak of "black death" in Madagascar has been halted thanks to British aid, MPs have been told.

International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt praised the "heroic" effort to control the spread of plague on the African island.

The outbreak led to around 200 deaths but Ms Mordaunt said British support helped prevent thousands of further fatalities and "averted a catastrophe".

The Department for International Development (DfID) supported the World Health Organisation (WHO) in dealing with the crisis.

The WHO sent out more than 100 international experts to deal with the crisis, along with 1.2 million doses of antibiotics, and also set up nine specialist treatment centres in Madagascar to care for those affected.

UK aid, through DfID and the Department of Health and Social Care, funded a team of three public health experts who flew to Madagascar and provided advice in monitoring the disease, preventing further infection including through introducing border surveillance and safe burial practices.

Ms Mordaunt told the Commons International Development Committee that the action "has managed to stop an outbreak of the black death in Madagascar".

She said: "It was our phenomenal preparedness, our swift response and our expertise that has literally saved thousands of lives and averted a catastrophe.

"That heroic action, I want every British citizen to feel a real pride in.

"A necessary condition of that is that I, as the Secretary of State, never forget whose money it is that I am spending.

"It is the British people, ultimately, that enabled that heroic action."

Ms Mordaunt confirmed the Government's ongoing promise to spend 0.7% of national income on development assistance and her commitment to the continued existence of DfID as a standalone department.

Public Health Minister Steve Brine said: "Disease transcends lines drawn on a map - and we have a duty to share our expertise to fight outbreaks of deadly disease across the world.

"Our expert rapid support team played a key role in containing this plague, as well as building the skills of local healthcare workers in responding to future outbreaks."