The Ebola epidemic in West Africa continues to spread. Aid groups and public health organizations pleaded in recent weeks for more aid and personnel to help contain the outbreak. To help, U.S. aid, military personnel, materials and financial support are on their way as America expands its efforts to help combat the Ebola hemorrhagic virus.
President Obama announced plans on Tuesday to send up to 3,000 troops to the region, which has suffered more than 2,460 deaths and infected approximately 5,000 people. The U.S. government initiative involves establishing a new military command center in Liberia to direct efforts (a similar approach was used in Haiti after the earthquake), establishing more treatment centers, sending medical personnel to help in field hospitals, and providing air support to speed transport of people and materials in the area.
NPR reported that the U.S. Department of Defense is shifting $500 million in funds to combat Ebola. The aid includes support for building 17 new Ebola treatment centers that can accommodate approximately 100 patients each in Liberia as well as a training facility to prepare 500 health care workers every week to join the fight on the front lines.
The White House statement echoed the World Health Organization’s dire warnings that if the outbreak’s growth is not curtailed soon the number of cases could spiral into the hundreds of thousands. Besides announcing the administration’s support effort, Obama met Tuesday with Dr. Kent Brantly, an American who contracted the Ebola virus while serving as a missionary in Liberia. Brantly has recovered completely.
Like the U.S., Britain also expanded its efforts to help combat Ebola. Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond announced they are providing a £100 million aid package, including setting up medical facilities to treat more than 700 people in the near future.
The United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reported that the Ebola crisis would be a major point of discussion at a gathering of world leaders this week. A discussion is also planned for the U.N. Security Council meeting on Thursday.
It was back in March that Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders) opened the first Ebola treatment center in Guinea, the country when the current outbreak originated. Since then, the volunteer organization has been critical of the lack of international support and has been calling for a major influx of money and health care workers to fight the epidemic.
Philanthropic organizations in the U.S. also ramped up efforts. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledged $50 million last week for medical supplies and research. The foundation had donated $2 million early on in the outbreak, but decided to make such a large contribution given the true crisis at hand. That generosity motivated other charities and foundations (including the foundation established by Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen, which gave more than $15 million) to provide money, volunteer medical personnel, medical supplies and more.
As the U.S. effort to combat Ebola expands, the hope of establishing a vaccine is also progressing. Volunteers will be taking part in trials in the next few weeks, which were fast tracked in both the U.S. and U.K because of the dire need. In fact, British drug company GlaxoSmithKline is reportedly manufacturing 10,000 doses of the vaccine being tested in anticipation that their use will be approved.
By Dyanne Weiss