US Discloses Plan to Tackle Ebola in West Africa

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As the Ebola epidemic has overwhelmed Liberia with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf calling on the Government of the United States to intervene to prevent the country from collapse, US President Barack Obama has announced plans of bringing in more equipment and 3,000 military troops to help save the country and its neighbors from the calamity.

 “This is an epidemic that is not just a threat to regional security, it’s a potential threat to global security,” said Mr. Obama in a statement at the US Center for Disease Control.  “If these countries break down – if their economies break down; if they panic – that has profound effects on all of us even if we are not directly contracting the disease.  And that’s why 2 months ago I directed my team to make that a national priority…  We have devoted significant resources in support of our strategy with four goals in mind:

  1. To control the outbreak
  2. To address the ripple effects of local economies and communities to prevent a truly massive humanitarian disaster
  3. To coordinate a broader global response; and,
  4. To urgently build up a public health system in these countries for the future, not just in West Africa, but in countries that don’t have a lot of resources generally.” 

At the military front, United States will, through the U.S. Africa Command, set up a task force with headquarters in Monrovia to provide regional command and control support to U.S. military activities and facilitate coordination with U.S. government and international relief.

“At the request of the Liberian Government, we’re gonna set up a military command center in Liberia to support civilian efforts across the region,” the American President said.

U.S. Africa Command will set up a Joint Force Command headquartered in Monrovia, Liberia, to provide regional command and control support to U.S. military activities and facilitate coordination with U.S. government and international relief efforts.  Major General Darryl Williams, commander of the U.S. Army forces in Africa, will lead the effort, which will involve an estimated 3,000 U.S. forces.

The U.S. Africa Command will establish a regional intermediate staging base (ISB) to facilitate and expedite the transportation of equipment, supplies and personnel. Of the U.S. forces taking part in this response, many will be stationed at the ISB.

Accordingly, Command engineers will build additional Ebola Treatment Units in affected areas, and the U.S. Government will help recruit and organize medical personnel to staff them.  Additionally, the Command will establish a site to train up to 500 health care providers per week, enabling healthcare workers to safely provide direct medical care to patients.

A dispatch from the U.S. Embassy notes that the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps is preparing to deploy 65 Commissioned Corps officers to Liberia to manage and staff a previously announced Department of Defense (DoD) hospital to care for healthcare workers who become ill. The deployment roster will consist of administrators, clinicians, and support staff.

Being more specific about Liberia because of the worsening condition of the crisis, the U.S. Government said its development institution; USAID is supporting a community care program that will enhance the distribution of household kits to over 400,000 households.

“USAID is supporting a Community Care Campaign, which will provide communities and households with protection kits, appropriate information and training on how to protect themselves and their loved ones. In partnership with the United Nations Children Fund, the Paul Allen Family Foundation, and other key partners, we will immediately target the 400,000 most vulnerable households in Liberia. The package will subsequently be scaled to cover the country and the broader region.”

As part of this effort, this week, USAID will airlift 50,000 home health care kits from Denmark to Liberia to be hand-delivered to distant communities by trained youth volunteers.

This recent plan by the United States to help Liberia and the rest of the affected Ebola countries is one of the highest responses since the outbreak in March this year.  This does not mean the US Government has not been engaged in helping especially Liberia to fight the life claiming virus.

The dispatch recalled that to date, the people of United States have spent more than $100 million to address this challenge, including the purchase of personal protective equipment, mobile labs, logistics and relief commodities, and support for community health workers. USAID also has announced plans to make available up to $75 million in additional funding to increase the number of Ebola treatment units, provide more personal protective equipment, airlift additional medical and emergency supplies, and support other Ebola response activities in collaboration with the UN, including the World Health Organization, and international partners.

Earlier, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has provided on the ground expertise in the largest international response in its history.

More than 100 CDC personnel are on the ground in West Africa, and hundreds of personnel at their Emergency Operations Center in Atlanta have provided around the clock logistics, staffing, communication, analytics, management, and other support functions. The Administration has asked Congress for an additional $30 million to send additional response workers from the CDC as well as lab supplies and equipment.           

Furthermore, USAID in August deployed a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) to West Africa to coordinate and prioritize the U.S. government’s response to the outbreak.

The DART assesses and identifies priority needs and coordinates key areas of the response, such as planning, operations, and logistics. The 28-member DART team is comprised of staff from USAID, CDC, DoD, and the U.S. Forest Service.

It will be airlifting 130,000 sets of personal protective equipment to ensure that health care workers have the resources needed to safely do their jobs. The DART is also in the process of procuring generators that will provide electricity to Ebola treatment units and other response facilities.

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