Thu | Dec 8, 2016

International community ramps up aid in Africa

Published:Tuesday | October 28, 2014 | 12:00 AM

ACCRA, (AP): German Captain Mattias Reichenbach has loaded protective gear, blankets, mosquito nets, soap and other cargo onto his C-160 military plane and he's ready to take off on his third mission from the United Nations' main staging area in Ghana in a war that has claimed thousands of lives in three African countries.

Instead of serving as peacekeepers against insurgents in some bush war, though, the UN is battling a different type of deadly foe: Ebola.

Accra, Ghana, which is near the Ebola-hit countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea but has not itself been exposed to the disease, has become the main staging area and headquarters for the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response, or UNMEER. The establishment in September of what the UN describes as its first-ever emergency health mission comes as international efforts against Ebola, which has killed nearly 5,000 people across West Africa, are finally being stepped up.

10,000 NEW CASES A WEEK

The World Health Organization warns that there could be 10,000 new Ebola cases a week by December if the world doesn't get more heavily involved. Cuba sent 165 doctors to Sierra Leone, and 91 more doctors and nurses are joining them. China has already sent nearly 200 medical staff to West Africa and provided other humanitarian aid.

The responses by the United States, Britain and France are largely based on historical or colonial ties. France has focused its efforts on Guinea; Britain on Sierra Leone; and the United States is giving much of its aid to Liberia.

Among those efforts:

Major General Gary J. Volesky, commander of the 101st Airborne Division, assumed command in Liberia on Saturday of the growing contingent of US forces in Liberia.

"You need our support demonstrated with action not words, and action is exactly what we are going to provide," Volesky said.

A 25-bed hospital in Monrovia, Liberia's capital, should be fully operational in the first week of November. American doctors and nurses will care for infected health care there. About 600 US service members are now in Liberia.

A British hospital and support vessel carrying 32 vehicles is sailing to Sierra Leone, where more than 300 UK military personnel are based. The Royal Navy's RFA Argus, which left the UK on October 17, is expected soon in the capital, Freetown. Britain is also building treatment centres. One centre that will hold 92 beds, including some specifically for infected health workers, is almost complete in Kerry Town, outside Freetown.