President Obama is sending 3,000 U.S. troops to West Africa in order to help in curbing the Ebola virus epidemic. Finally, we have the answer that is adequate to the scale of the catastrophe, said Doctors Without Borders.
Americans have been criticized by international humanitarian organizations and by the Liberian, Guinean and Sierra Leone government. Although they are not responsible for the outbreak of the epidemic, as the greatest world power they should do something. The Ebola virus has already killed 3,000 people and in the worst-case scenario it could kill another 250,000 people by the end of the year. The number of people affected grows at an alarming rate.
Liberian Minister of National Defense Brownie Samukai recently said that his country is fighting an invisible enemy that poses “a serious threat to (Liberia’s) existence.”
A week ago, the only reaction of the U.S. was a pledge to organize a field hospital for 25 beds and several dozen doctors who were to advise to the African government. Americans seemed to be completely absorbed in the war with Muslim fanatics who have recently executed two American journalists in Iraq or Syria. On Thursday, there was a breakthrough. During a visit to a health center in Atlanta, Barack Obama announced “an offensive against the Ebola virus.”*
The United States will send 3,000 troops to three countries affected by outbreaks of that disease, particularly to Liberia. They are planning to build 17 Ebola treatment centers with 100 beds in each and a training center where 500 local nurses will be trained weekly. They will also deliver medicines and medical equipment to local community services, including several hundred thousand disinfectants (intended for families of infected people). The general who will be in charge of this operation will appear in Monrovia, Liberia this week and he will also be appointed by the U.S. Africa Command, meaning U.S. armed forces in the African region.
It is estimated that the American operation will cost nearly $800 million.
No specific treatment for the hemorrhagic fever caused by the Ebola virus is yet available. Doctors can only create the best possible conditions for the patients to fight the disease. At least half of infected people die. In the current epidemic in West Africa, the fatality rate is around 60 percent, if a patient is lucky and is admitted to a crowded hospital. It can be also around 90 percent for people for whom there was not enough space in the hospitals.
Those people are wandering around the streets, infecting others and fueling the epidemic. It all began with a two-year-old boy from Meliandou village in Guinea. He died on Dec. 6, 2013. He was infected by animals (probably monkeys) and is called “Patient Zero.” A few days, later his mother, sister and grandmother also died. The disease spread among the family of the deceased during funerals. Later on, doctors and nurses who took care of them were infected. So far, there have been 5,000 recorded cases in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, but according to humanitarian activists, those figures are under-reported.
Most of the border-crossing points in those countries have been closed. The major soccer events in Liberia have been canceled to prevent spreading of the disease.
It is also known from the White House that consultations concerning the epidemic in West Africa lasted for several weeks between the Department of Defense, National Institute of Health and USAID. A week ago, there was a decisive conference, which was chaired by General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.
On Sunday, Obama explained to NBC news – still without going into details – that America has to get involved in stopping this epidemic, even if it means risking the lives of its citizens, because if the virus gets more time, it can evolve.
“And then it would become a serious threat for us, American citizens,”* explained the president. He probably reckoned that this argument is necessary since Americans, mostly because of great debt of the country, are lately reluctant to get involved into foreign humanitarian aid.
“We are glad with this new American plan that seems to be adequate response to the scale of the catastrophe in West Africa,” commented Brice de le Vigne, chief of the organization Doctors Without Borders. “But it needs to be immediately implemented because we are currently losing with the virus.”
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