As Ebola continues to spread uncontrollably through West Africa like a malignant wildfire, U.S. troops are being sent to the region along with healthcare and aid workers in an effort to stem the virus from spreading further.
Since mid-September, Obama has dispatched about 4,000 troops to the region where Ebola has struck the hardest, making it the largest response to an international epidemic in U.S. history, Obama said.
The $763 million plan, dubbed Operation United Assistance, is modeled after the U.S. response to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, when 20,000 U.S. troops were dispatched to assist with getting aid throughout the country. This effort includes a regional U.S. base in Liberia; portable hospitals, laboratories and other medical facilities; and training for medical officials in West Africa.
“The world knows how to fight this disease,” Obama said. “It’s not a mystery. We know the science. We know how to prevent it from spreading. We know how to care for those who contract it. We know that if we take the proper steps, we can save lives. But we have to act fast. We can’t dawdle on this one.”
The U.S. troops will not provide direct medical care, but rather support for aid workers. They’ll also receive extensive training, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said in USA Today.
“While we’ll do a lot of tangible things – we’ll build this hospital, we’ll build the Ebola treatment units, provide these labs – there’s a lot of intangible nature to this fight,” said Maj. Gen. Darryl Williams, commander of U.S. Army Africa who is leading the advance team into Liberia. “You want to give people the resilience, the hope that they can fight this thing and see this through.”
Most of the troops are being deployed to Liberia and Senegal and will be housed in Liberian government buildings or tent cities. They will only be exposed to food and water shipped in by the U.S. military.
So far, there are more than 4,000 deaths attributed to Ebola according to the World Health Organization. “Our people are dying,” Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma said. He claimed that support from other countries isn’t coming fast enough as more children become orphaned and infected doctors and nurses catch the deadly disease.
Other countries are also sending troops, including the UK, which will send more than 750 troops to help build treatment centers and an Ebola “training academy” in Sierra Leone, noted British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon. British army medics and helicopters will provide direct support. The German military plans to begin sending more troops to help set up a clinic for 50 patients in mid-November.