September 17, 2014
The United States announced on Tuesday that it would send 3,000 troops to help tackle the Ebola outbreak as part of a ramped-up response including a major deployment in Liberia, the country where the epidemic is spiraling fastest out of control. From Reuters:
The U.S. response to the crisis, to be formally unveiled later by President Barack Obama, includes plans to build 17 treatment centers, train thousands of healthcare workers and establish a military control center for coordination, U.S. officials told reporters.
The World Health Organization has said it needs foreign medical teams with 500-600 experts as well as at least 10,000 local health workers, numbers that may rise if the number of cases increases, as it is widely expected to.
So far Cuba and China have said they will send medical staff to Sierra Leone. Cuba will deploy 165 people in October while China is sending a mobile laboratory with 59 staff to speed up testing for the disease. It already has 115 staff and a Chinese-funded hospital there.
But Liberia is where the disease appears to be running amok. The WHO has not issued any estimate of cases or deaths in the country since Sept 5 and its Director-General Margaret Chan has said there is not a single bed available for Ebola patients there.
Liberia, a nation founded by descendants of freed American slaves, appealed for U.S. help last week.
A U.N. official in the country said on Friday that her colleagues had resorted to telling locals to use plastic bags to fend off the killer virus, for want of any other protective equipment.
Medecins Sans Frontieres, the charity that has been leading the fight against Ebola, said it was overwhelmed and repeated its call for an immediate and massive deployment.
Global Health and Development Beat
The number of hungry people in the world has fallen sharply over the past decade but 805 million, or one in nine of the global population, still do not have enough to eat, three U.N. food and agriculture agencies said.
The unprecedented Ebola outbreak in West Africa requires a $1 billion response to keep its spread within the “tens of thousands” of cases, United Nations officials said.
Poor sanitation has caused serious health problems in Haiti – but could a special eco toilet improve the situation?
With approximately 500,000 underground abortions each year, Argentina’s government and the Catholic Church have created a moral paradox of immense proportions.
South Sudan will from next month require that companies and non-government organisations employ South Sudanese citizens unless they are unable to find locals with the necessary skills.
A campaign to persuade people in Rwanda to buy a new improved type of cooking stove – which uses less fuel and is less smoky – hasn’t succeeded, according to the stoves’ manufacturers.
Buzzing in the Blogs
Joseph Harker questions why the WHO is not deploying resources to evacuate local health workers when they are infected by Ebola. He writes in the Guardian:
Despite the fate of the previous doctors, the WHO had said merely that it would work to give Buck “the best care possible” in Sierra Leone.
However, foreign health and aid workers have been sent abroad from Sierra Leone and Liberia for treatment – including the British nurse William Pooley, who survived and now wishes to go back to Sierra Leone to continue helping to fight the disease. Only last Friday, two Dutch doctors were flown home after coming into contact with infected patients.
But so far no local health workers have been evacuated: even though, according to the WHO, in west Africa 301 have so far caught Ebola and 144 have died. Dr Sheik Humarr Khan, Sierra Leone’s top Ebola doctor, was being considered for evacuation to a European country when he died of the disease in late July.
Albert is convinced that, despite Olivet being diagnosed only last week, her life could still have been saved. “The Hamburg hospital was ready to take her on Thursday; and when I spoke to her on Friday, even though she was weak she was still in good spirits.”
And he says of the WHO’s decision: “I think it showed a callous lack of compassion for a devoted frontline clinician, especially since there is now awareness of equipped units elsewhere to which other patients have been evacuated and successfully treated.” The combination of specialist equipment, drugs and a clean healthcare environment can have rapid results, he points out. Olivet was, in contrast, working in an overcrowded unit with poor sanitary conditions – in a part of the capital, Freetown, that has become densely populated since refugees fled the country’s civil war in the 1990s. “The best care possible” is a meaningless phrase in this context.
10:00 AM – Subcommittee Hearing: Global Efforts to Fight Ebola – US House Committee on Foreign Affairs
2:00 PM – What’s Next? Celebrating 20 Years of the Environmental Change and Security Program – Wilson Center
12:15 PM – Social Origins of Dictatorships: Elite Networks and Political Transitions in Haiti – CGD
By Mark Leon Goldberg and Tom Murphy
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