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U.S. troops ready for Ebola

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About 3000 US military personnel were being ordered on Tuesday for deployment here to step up the fight against the deadly Ebola virus that is ravaging the Mano River sub-region, US President Barrack Obama was expected to announce the move on Tuesday night in Atlanta, USA.

At 2400 persons have died from the deadly virus in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea being the hardest hit countries. The virus which broke up in Guinea in February spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone in March.

President Obama’s announcement is expected to reverse the spread of the tropical disease in the region as China and Cuba have already dispatched experts to neighboring Sierra Leone. The move by President Obama comes at the time the UN’s Ebola co-ordinator says about US$1bn is needed to fight the West Africa Ebola outbreak – a tenfold increase in the past month.

A document released by the US Embassy near Monrovia detailing the US response to the Ebola Epidemic in the region says the U.S. Africa Command will set up a Joint Force Command, headquartered in Monrovia, to provide regional command and control support to U.S. military activities and facilitate coordination with U.S. Government and international relief efforts.

Washington says a general from U.S. Army Africa, the Army component of U.S. Africa Command, will lead this effort, which will involve an estimated 3,000 U.S. forces.

As part of  the US intervention, the U.S. Africa Command will establish a regional intermediate staging base (ISB) to facilitate and expedite the transportation of equipment, supplies and personnel. Of the U.S. forces taking part in this response, many will be stationed at the ISB.

Command engineers will build additional Ebola Treatment Units in affected areas, and the U.S. Government will help recruit and organize medical personnel to staff them. The military will establish a site to train up to 500 health care providers per week, enabling healthcare workers to safely provide direct medical care to patients.

The US will deploy 65 experts from its public health Corps to Liberia to manage and staff a previously announced Department of Defense (DoD) hospital to care for healthcare workers who become ill. The deployment roster will consist of administrators, clinicians, and support staff.

The US will also supply Ebola prevention kits targeting 400,000 most vulnerable households in Liberia. The package will subsequently be scaled to cover the country and the broader region. As part of the efforts, this week, USAID is expected to airlift 50,000 home health care kits from Denmark to Liberia to be hand-delivered to distant communities by trained youth volunteers.

Reports say Obama will travel to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta — where US Ebola victims were treated  to make the announcement. Most of the US effort, which will draw heavily on its military medical corps, will be concentrated here with plans to build 17 Ebola treatment centers with 100 beds in each.

The US has so far spent $100 million on fighting the epidemic and the US Agency for International Development plans to allocate another $75 million to increase the number of Ebola treatment units and buy protective gear for health providers.

In addition, the administration has asked Congress for a further $88 million. The money is contained in a short term bill to fund the government until mid-December which could pass Congress this week. More than 100 workers from Centers for Disease Control are already at work in the sub-region, and many more staff are coordinating their work at the agency’s Atlanta headquarters.

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