Yesterday President Obama announced the US will send 3,000 military personnel to Liberia to help fight the Ebola virus. Watch our video report on Liberia’s crippled health systems and why help is so desperately needed.
US support a long time coming
Officials have said that US military personnel will oversee the building of 17 new treatment centres, with the capacity to hold 100 patients each, as well as help train medical staff.
The announcement has come amidst criticism that the US waited too long to respond to the crisis.
My colleague Korto Williams, ActionAid’s Country Director in Liberia told me:
“They should have been helping Liberia scale up its response back in April. But they are here now and their help is desperately needed and very welcome.”
Liberia’s health centres overwhelmed
Ebola has so far killed over 2,000 people in West Africa, half of them in Liberia. Thousands more cases are predicted in the coming weeks.
Our aid workers are telling us that health centres are overwhelmed, forcing health officials to send suspected Ebola cases back into their communities. They are working with limited supplies and rudimentary equipment.
ActionAid is providing health centres with desperately needed supplies like chlorine, disinfectant, soap and towels, but specialist medical help is desperately needed.
Fear of Ebola remains the biggest challenge
Undoubtedly the medical staff sent over with US troops will be an invaluable resource in a country crippled by the Ebola epidemic. It’s important to have more health workers on the ground.
But military personnel must understand that fear remains the biggest challenge in tackling Ebola in West Africa and any activities, such as contact tracing, or quarantine must be carried out compassionately and in close collaboration with community leaders, so as not to drive people into hiding.
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