As the go-slow action continues by Liberian health workers demanding higher salaries, risk benefits and better working conditions, United States Ambassador Deborah R. Malac has clarified that the US$10 million her government has given Liberia is meant to pay salaries to health workers directly enrolled in the Ebola fight.
Ambassador Malac made the clarification in Tubmanburg, Bomi County Wednesday when she visited the newly erected Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU) built by the U.S. government in conjunction with the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL).
Making her government’s intentions clear in response to the persistent questions posed by journalists, the U.S. Ambassador was precise. “The U.S. Government has assisted with US$5 million to pay salaries to healthcare workers and an additional $5 million was given by the USAID Director just recently. This is for healthcare workers directly involved in the process of the Ebola fight,” Malac stated.
She made it clear that those health workers receiving the payments are found in ETUs and care centers. She spelled out that those are the people directly involved with the Ebola work and are at risk because they handle corpses and come in direct contact with Ebola- affected people.
She gave the assurance that they (donors) know where the money goes and to whom it goes. “This (fund) is not for risk benefits but for salaries of health workers directly involved with the Ebola fight, the ambassador repeated, clarifying that Risk benefit payment is being arranged by the Government of Liberia and the U.S. is not involved with it.”
Ambassador Malac said Ebola is a health crisis affecting everybody and does not need political reaction.
Regarding the health workers’ go-slow, Ambassador Malac acknowledged that the health workers need to take care of their families, have PPEs and are also assigned to help improve the health of the country as a whole.
She indicated that the problem of the go-slow is the Liberian Government’s responsibility and it must take ownership of and find amicable solutions to the health workers’ issues.
Also speaking about the construction of the Bomi ETUs, Ben Hemingway, head of the US Disaster Assistance Relief Team (DART), told journalists that work began two weeks ago and they expect the area to be in use within the next two weeks.
He said the construction sponsored by USAID is carried out by members of the U.S. military contingent in collaboration with the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL).
The structures erected are not only ETUs but care centers as well, said Mr. Hemingway, reviewing that the U.S. Government will erect 17 treatment units in Liberia, and a fully equipped 100-bed ETU costing about US$250,000. Most of the work is being done by Liberian contractors, he noted. That is also a way of helping the crumbling Liberian economy, he asserted.
He named epidemiological survey and rainy weather as serious challenges to fighting the Ebola disease, noting that it is necessary to know where the outbreak is occurring and with heavy rain the work becomes difficult.
AFL Captain Glee Dilliard Dada toured with Ambassador Malac, accompanied by U.S. Joint Forces Operation Commander, Darryl Williams and AFL Chief of Staff, Daniel Ziankahn.
There are four structures erected at the site in Bomi, and the yard is well leveled with crushed rocks that will prevent flooding. There are areas for suspected, probable and confirmed cases. There is also a waiting area for family members who do not have the disease.