Wed | Mar 21, 2018

West African nations plead for Ebola help

Published:Friday | October 10, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Presidents of West African countries ravaged by Ebola pleaded for aid at the World Bank yesterday as the United States military ramped up its efforts in Liberia, the hardest-hit country.

"Our people are dying," Sierra Leone's President Ernest Bai Koroma said by videoconference at a World Bank meeting in Washington on the Ebola response. He called the epidemic "a tragedy unforeseen in modern times," saying the world is not responding fast enough as children are orphaned and doctors and nurses continue to die.

A Uganda-born doctor, John Taban Dada, died early Thursday of Ebola at a treatment centre on the outskirts of Monrovia, Liberia's capital. Liberian Health Minister Tolbert Nyenswah said the gynaecologist and surgeon would be immediately buried in accordance with the policy requiring quick interment of victims.

His death brings to four the number of doctors who have died in Liberia since the outbreak. More than 90 health workers, including nurses and physician assistants, have also died.

Two US military flights were due to arrive in Liberia yesterday, Army Captain R. Carter Langston told The Associated Press in an email.

"Two different flights of MV-22 Osprey and KC-130 aircraft, along with US Marines, will arrive to support the whole-of-government effort to contain Ebola," Carter said, noting they would land agt Roberts Airfield outside Monrovia.

Critics say Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's handling of the crisis has been heavy-handed and ineffective. Police used batons and rattan whips to disperse 100 protesters Thursday outside the National Assembly, where lawmakers were debating granting her even more powers beyond those contained in a state of emergency declared in August. Liberia's state radio announced that Senate elections scheduled for next week would be postponed. No new date was given.

3,800 KILLED

The outbreak has killed more than 3,800 people, according to the latest World Health Organization figures. The vast majority of those deaths have been in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The US military is working to build medical centres in Liberia and may send up to 4,000 soldiers to help with the Ebola crisis. Medical workers and beds for Ebola patients are sorely lacking, particularly in Sierra Leone and Liberia. Liberia and Sierra Leone only have enough beds to meet about 21 per cent and 26 per cent of their needs, WHO said Wednesday.

British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said his country would provide more than 750 troops to help build treatment centres and an Ebola "training academy" in Sierra Leone. Army medics and helicopters will also provide direct support. Britain will also provide an aviation support ship.

British troops are expected to arrive in Sierra Leone next week where they will join military engineers and planners who have been there for nearly a month helping to construct medical centres.