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US to provide military assistance to combat Ebola

Published:Wednesday | September 17, 2014 | 12:00 AM
AP Health workers in protective gear after they moved the body of a person on to the back of a truck as they suspect she died from the Ebola virus in Monrovia, Liberia, yesterday.

WASHINGTON (AP): The Obama administration is ramping up its response to West Africa's Ebola crisis, preparing to assign 3,000 US military personnel to the afflicted region to supply medical and logistical support to overwhelmed local health-care systems and to boost the number of beds needed to isolate and treat victims of the epidemic.

President Barack Obama planned to announce the stepped-up effort during a visit to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta amid alarm that the outbreak could spread and that the deadly virus could mutate into a more easily transmitted disease.

appeals from the region

The new United States (US) muscle comes after appeals from the region and from aid organisations for a heightened US role in combatting the outbreak blamed for more than 2,200 deaths.

Administration officials said Monday that the new initiatives aim to:

Train as many as 500 health-care workers a week.

Erect 17 heath-care facilities in the region of 100 beds each.

Set up a joint command headquartered in Monrovia, Liberia, to coordinate between US and international relief efforts.

Provide home health-care kits to hundreds of thousands of households, including 50,000 that the US Agency for International Development will deliver to Liberia this week.

Carry out a home- and community-based campaign to train local populations on how to handle exposed patients.

Meanwhile, a Senate panel scheduled a hearing on the Ebola crisis. Expected to testify were Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Dr Kent Brantly, an American physician who contracted Ebola while working in Liberia, but recovered after treatment with an experimental drug.

expected costs

The Obama administration officials said the cost of the stepped-up effort to combat the disease would come from US$500 million in overseas contingency operations, such as the war in Afghanistan, that the Pentagon already has asked Congress to redirect to carry out humanitarian efforts in Iraq and in West Africa. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to discuss the plans on the record ahead of Obama's announcement

The officials said it would take about two weeks to get US forces on the ground.