President Obama is expected to announced today a serious expansion of the American military and healthcare presence in Africa to combat the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history. Up to 3,000 troops could be dispatched to the country to build treatment centers, train healthcare workers, and set up a military command center to coordinate help.
"We all recognize that this is such an extraordinary, serious epidemic," a senior White House official told reporters. Seventeen treatment centers—which hold about 100 beds each—will be constructed in Liberia, where the virus is spreading exponentially. Military engineers sent to the country will also be able to train up to 500 healthcare providers a week. Additionally, the U.S. government is expected to send 400,00 home treatment and "tens of thousands" of testing kits to Liberia.
The Obama administration's response to the virus' outbreak—which recent studies worry could reach the U.S. by the end of the month—has so far been criticized as slow and insufficient. From the Washington Post:
The United States has already spent $175 million responding to the outbreak and has dispatched 100 CDC experts, among the largest deployments of agency personnel in its history. The administration has sought an additional $88 million and may ask for more, according to a senior administration official. "I don't want to close the door to potential additional funding," the official said. Separately, the Pentagon wants to take up to $500 million from existing funds within the Pentagon's budget that have not yet been spent and use it for the plan to fight Ebola.
But even with today's anticipated announcement of a larger campaign, the World Health Organization, Reuters reports, estimates that Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone will need "at least three to four times the number of medical and public health workers currently on the ground" to stem the tide of the disease.
"The problem is, for every single thing we're doing, we're racing against the virus, and the virus has the high ground right now," Laurie Garrett, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, told the Washington Post. "I would hope this would reduce transmission, but it's all about how fast people can get there and get the job done. If it takes weeks to mobilize, the strategy won't even be within reach."
The World Health Organization estimates that at least 2,400 people across five African countries have died from the virus, but health officials told the Post that the number "vastly underestimates" the true death toll.
[Image via AP]