Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2014 / 15:58 pm
President Barack Obama’s announcement of personnel and other aid to combat the deadly Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa drew praise from relief workers involved in the region.
“The situation in West Africa requires an unprecedented response, and we appreciate President Obama’s commitment to scale-up U.S. government resources so the current outbreak can be contained,” Michael Ghebrab, Catholic Relief Services’ country representative in Sierra Leone, said Sept. 16.
“The president’s plan will meet some of the urgent need for medical equipment, logistical support and training health personnel that will help save lives in the short-term.”
President Barack Obama on Tuesday announced the deployment of over 3,000 U.S. military service members to the affected countries to help stop the disease’s spread, saying there is an opportunity “to save countless lives.”
The president cited the danger that the disease could infect hundreds of thousands of people. It has already killed over 2,400 after infecting almost 5,000 in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. Several Ebola deaths have taken place in Nigeria.
The U.S. personnel will include medical professionals and engineers. The U.S. forces will establish a regional command center in the Liberian capital of Monrovia under Major General Darryl Williams, Reuters reports. The U.S. plans to build 17 treatment centers with 100 beds each, place U.S. public health personnel in Liberian field hospitals, and to train thousands of medical workers.
The forces will also help improve air supply routes for health workers and medical supplies. They will not be responsible for direct care of infected patients.
Ghebrab said that in addition to deaths from Ebola, “many more people” will suffer from hunger and unemployment. The disease, and fear of it, has disrupted life for many in affected regions.
“In addition to meeting critical needs now, there is also a significant need to fund longer-term activities, like health system strengthening and programs that will help people resume and re-start their lives and livelihoods to avoid an even bigger impact of Ebola in West Africa,” he said.
Meredith Stakem, Catholic Relief Services’ Senegal-based regional technical advisor on health, voiced hope that the international community “will continue to emphasize prevention alongside efforts to scale up treatment.”
“There is still a huge need to educate the public in all of the affected countries about Ebola, how it spreads, and what actions people need to take to protect themselves and their families. We have seen firsthand how locally tailored information delivered face-to-face in a way that engages the audience can be effective.”
Many people in need of medical treatment have avoided medical centers for fear of Ebola, leading to other health problems.
Stakem stressed the importance of support for routine healthcare services amid the disruptions.
“As human and financial resources are directed to Ebola, we need to make sure people still have access the regular services they need. We are deeply concerned by reports of a measles outbreak in Liberia that could have been prevented with routine immunizations.
American Ebola survivor Dr. Kent Brantly has called for a quick response to the outbreak.
Brantley contacted Ebola while working as a missionary in Liberia. He was flown back to the U.S. for treatment and recovered from the disease, prompting much U.S. attention to the outbreak of the disease.
Ahead of President Obama’s announcement, he told EWTN News Nightly that he hopes the U.S. government takes “immediate action” on its commitments, saying “we cannot afford a delay in our response.”
“We’ve already delayed too long, and we need to take action now.”