US President Barrack Obama has told Americans that the US involvement in the fight against the deadly Ebola virus disease here is not over yet, while announcing a draw down plan for some 2800 US troops here.
Announcing the beginning a “new phase in the fight” against Ebola in a remarks given at the White House on Tuesday, President Obama noted the progress that have been made against the outbreak in the sub-region and the involvement of some 2,800 American military troops here, saying they will return home by April 30, 2015.
He said the withdrawal of the US troops will leave a force of 100 troops behind to work with Liberia’s military, regional partners and U.S. civilians. However, he cautioned the mission was not over.
“We have risen to the challenge,” President Obama stated in his remarks in Washington, DC. “Our focus now is getting to zero.”
Since the onset of the epidemic in 2014, the United States has led an international response involving thousands of personnel, U.S. and international, civilian and military to fight the disease at its source. In Liberia, U.S. personnel, both civilian and military, trained more than 1,500 healthcare workers; facilitated the construction of 15 Ebola Treatment Units (ETUs); supported the establishment of core public health management and rapid response capabilities; and galvanized a robust international response comprised of over 62 countries contributing more than $2 billion as well as thousands of personnel and wide-ranging resources. Now, approximately 10 months since the first additional U.S. personnel deployed to West Africa, cases are down 80 percent from peak levels.
“Every case is an ember that, if not contained, can light a new fire,” the president cautioned. “So we’re shifting our focus from fighting the epidemic to now extinguishing it.”
The military mission was only part of the U.S. response, the President noted. He stressed the commitment of the United States to continue to work in coordination with the Government of Liberia to ramp up the civilian response beyond the 10,000 workers who are already involved in the fight against Ebola.
“As we transition into a new phase in this fight, make no mistake — America is as committed as ever, I am as committed as ever to getting to zero,” the President said. “And I know we can.”
The next phase of our response, he explained, turns the focus towards consolidating the substantial progress we have made in the fight against Ebola toa civilian led effort utilizing expertise from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Public Health Service and the U.S. Agency for International Development
Civilian health care workers will ramp up aggressive case-finding and contact-tracing efforts to hunt down remaining cases. We will continue public awareness campaigns and outreach so that communities remain vigilant and prepared to identify and care for new patients.
In thanking these military and civilian humanitarians for their service, the President said:
“Thanks to their commitment and to American leadership in this fight, we have made enormous progress in the last few months and have turned the tide of this epidemic. Thanks to these efforts, the number of new cases is on the decline. Thanks to the foundation our military, civilian workers and countless others around the world have laid, we now can focus on a new goal: Getting to zero — zero new cases of Ebola.”