The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) says it will be deploying a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) to West Africa to coordinate the U.S. Government’s response to the Ebola outbreak.
The outbreak has so far sickened more than 1,600 people, and nearly 900 have died from the disease.
The team, according to a U.S Embassy statement issued yesterday in Monrovia, will comprise staff from Agency’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, who will be overseeing critical areas of the response.
The response will include planning, operations, logistics in coordination with other federal agencies, among them the U.S. Departments of Defense and Health and Human Services.
Members of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will also serve on the DART to lead on public health and medical response activities, the statement has confirmed.
USAID has also announced an additional US$5 million in assistance to help ramp up the international community’s Ebola response efforts.
Specifically, the statement said, the funding will go toward the expansion of Ebola outbreak programs, which the Agency is already supporting in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia.
Accordingly, these programs help trace people who may be infected with the disease, as well as provide health clinics and households with hygiene kits, soap, bleach, gloves, masks, and other supplies to help prevent the spread of disease.
USAID is also supporting outreach campaigns to provide information on Ebola and its symptoms to the general public and health workers in affected countries that may not be familiar with the disease.
The statement said that these messages are being conveyed through radio, text messages, and through local media.
In addition to the new funding, USAID has provided US$2.1 million to the United Nations (UN), World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Educational Fund (UNICEF) for the deployment of more than 30 technical experts, and other Ebola response efforts.
The USAID is primarily responsible for administering civilian foreign aid in response to President Obama's pledge in his last year’s State of the Union Address to "join with our allies to eradicate extreme poverty, and other diseases in the next two decades."
It has adopted as its mission statement "to partner to end extreme poverty and to promote resilient, democratic societies, while advancing the security and prosperity of the United States.
President John F. Kennedy, in whose memory Liberia’s major referral hospital, the JFK Medical Center, is named, created USAID in 1961 by executive order to implement development assistance programs in the areas authorized by the Congress in the Foreign Assistance Act. America’s development assistance before 1961 was channeled through the International Cooperation Administration (ICA).