Sep. 15 (GIN) –Between $100- and $180 million have been committed to the fight against the Ebola virus in West Africa – an amount considered way too little and reaching the needy way too slowly.
A 25 bed unit pledged by the Pentagon for Liberia, noted the international president of Doctors Without Borders (MSF), would treat only health care workers, not the broader population. Further, it may not be delivered for another month. The slow U.S. response to the crisis has been sharply criticized by infectious disease experts.
New isolation and treatment facilities must be built quickly and on a large scale,” insisted MSF chief Joanne Liu, “in days, not weeks or months.”
Other shortcomings of the U.S. response include the limited number of hygiene kits, containing disinfectants, gloves and other materials that can prevent spread of the virus among family members. The U.S. will deliver only 50,000 in about a month while 400,000 people live in highly infected areas of Liberia, according to the U.S. Agency for International Development.
“The U.S. can do better than this,” wrote the New York Times in their Saturday editorial. “Even with its increased responsibilities in the Middle East, the Pentagon surely has enough logistical and technical resources to greatly augment aid to the Ebola-stricken countries.”
Liberian Pres. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, in an urgent note to Obama wrote: “I am being honest with you when I say that at this rate, we will never break the transmission chain and the virus will overwhelm us.”
Meanwhile, a pledge to send 165 doctors and nurses to Sierra Leone from the island of Cuba was announced this weekend. It would be the biggest commitment of personnel to the health crisis so far by any country, said Margaret Chan of the World Health Organization. The new team, now receiving specialist training in Cuba, will deploy in the first week of October and will stay six months.
A Liberian ex-pat, highlighted in a recent news feature, appears to be having success with a different strategy that uses “zones” much as was done during the war to ensure that everybody received food and other vital supplies.
“Dr. Mosoka Fallah has taken the situation in West Point as if he were living here,” said an organizer in the West Point neighborhood. “We can say openly: Had he not been here, things would have gotten far worse.”
In a related development, the U.S. government gave $24.9 million to replenish the exhausted supply of ZMapp, an experimental drug. President Obama will travel to Atlanta this week for an update at the Centers for Disease Control.