Is Obama’s response to Ebola crises enough and in time?
By LAURAN NEERGAARD and JIM KUHNHENN
WASHINGTON DC (AP) — President Barack Obama declared [on] Tuesday [September 16, 2014] that the Ebola epidemic in West Africa could threaten security around the world, and he ordered 3,000 U.S. military personnel to the region in emergency aid muscle for a crisis spiraling out of control.
The question was whether the aid would be enough and was coming in time. An ominous World Health Organization forecast said that with so many people now spreading the virus, the number of Ebola cases could start doubling every three weeks.
“If the outbreak is not stopped now, we could be looking at hundreds of thousands of people affected, with profound economic, political and security implications for all of us,” Obama said Tuesday after briefings in Atlanta with doctors and officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Emory University.
Obama called on other countries to join in quickly supplying more health workers, equipment and money. By day’s end the administration asked Congress to shift another $500 million in Pentagon money to the effort, meaning the U.S. could end up devoting $1 billion to contain the outbreak.
“It’s a potential threat to global security if these countries break down,” Obama said, speaking of the hardest-hit nations of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. At least 2,400 people have died, with Liberia bearing the brunt. Nearly 5,000 people have fallen ill in those countries and Nigeria and Senegal since the disease was first recognized in March. WHO says it anticipates the figure could rise to more than 20,000, and the disease could end up costing nearly $1 billion to contain.
Obama described the task ahead as “daunting” but said there was hope in the fact that “the world knows how to fight this disease.”
His expression grim, he described the “gut-wrenching” scene of a family in Liberia. The father had died, the mother was cradling a sick 5-year old, her 10-year-old was dying, too, and the family had reached a treatment center but couldn’t get in.
“These men and women and children are just sitting, waiting to die, right now.” Obama said. “And it doesn’t have to be this way.”
The U.S. is promising to deliver 17 hundred-bed treatment centers to Liberia, where contagious patients often sit in the streets, turned away from packed Ebola units. The Pentagon expects to have the first treatment units open within a few weeks, part of the heightened U.S. response that also includes training more local health care workers.
“This massive ramp-up of support from the United States is precisely the kind of transformational change we need to get a grip on the outbreak and begin to turn it around,” said WHO Director-General Margaret Chan.
Doctors Without Borders, which has sounded the alarm for months, also welcomed the U.S. effort but said it must be put into action immediately — and that other countries must follow suit because the window to contain the virus is closing.
“The response to Ebola continues to fall dangerously behind, and too many lives are being lost,” said Brice de le Vingne, the group’s director of operations. “We need more countries to stand up, we need greater concrete action on the ground, and we need it now.”
Dr. Kent Brantly, an American physician who survived Ebola he contracted while working in Liberia, met with Obama at the White House Tuesday. He is one of three aid workers with Ebola who have been treated at Emory.
Later, he told a packed Senate hearing, “We must move quickly and immediately to deliver the promises that have been made.”
CDC’s Dr. Beth Bell told senators the outbreak is “ferocious and spreading exponentially.”
“If we do not act now to stop Ebola, we could be dealing with it for years to come,” she warned.
The U.S. already has spent more than $100 million fighting the outbreak. Obama administration officials said some of the costs of the new military response would be covered by $500 million in overseas contingency operations, such as the war in Afghanistan, that the Pentagon already has asked Congress to redirect for West Africa and for humanitarian assistance in Iraq. The Obama administration submitted a request to Congress late Tuesday to reprogram another $500 million in defense money for efforts against the disease.
Congress still must vote on an Obama administration request for $88 million more to help the Ebola fight, including funding CDC work in West Africa through December and speeding development of experimental treatments and vaccines.
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said urgent action was needed. “We must take the dangerous, deadly threat of the Ebola epidemic as seriously as we take ISIS,” he said, referring to the extremist group in Syria and Iraq.
But some lawmakers questioned if the heightened U.S. response will be enough.
Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., said, “My math says we’re going to be behind the eight ball on Day 1 because we won’t have enough beds.”
An aid worker from Sierra Leone put a face on the region’s desperation. Ishmeal Alfred Charles of Freetown told senators that as he prepared to leave home, his 10-year-old daughter asked, “They said there is no Ebola in America. Why can’t you take us along?”
The U.N. Security Council will hold an emergency meeting Thursday on the crisis, and the head of the United Nations said the General Assembly will follow up with a high-level meeting next week as the world body “is taking the lead now” on the international fight.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed Obama’s plan, his spokesman said in a statement, and called on the international community “to be as bold and courageous in its response as those who are on the frontlines fighting this disease.”
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the 3,000 troops would not provide direct care to Ebola patients. In addition to delivering the 17 treatment facilities, they will help train as many as 500 local health care workers a week. Among the other initiatives, the military will:
—Set up a headquarters in Monrovia, Liberia, led by Maj. Gen. Darryl Williams, head of U.S. Army Africa.
—Build a regional transportation and staging base in Senegal where the U.S. will help coordinate the contributions of other allies and partners.
—Provide home health care kits to hundreds of thousands of households, designed to help healthy people caring for Ebola-stricken family members. That includes 50,000 that the U.S. Agency for International Development will deliver to Liberia this week.
—Carry out a home- and community-based campaign to train local populations on how to handle exposed patients.
In Monrovia, Boima Folley runs a sport materials shop and said he’d welcome the U.S. military response.
“We have been praying to get the disease wiped out of our country, so if the coming of U.S. troops will help us get that done, we should be happy,” he said. “The soldiers don’t have to have medical backgrounds.”
Jim Kuhnhenn reported from Atlanta. AP writers Lolita Baldor and Jennifer C. Kerr in Washington and Jonathan Paye-Layleh in Monrovia contributed to this report.
Forthcoming 2014 BOOK: In this engaging, uniquely insightful and first person reportage book, MANDELA & ACHEBE: Footprints of Greatness, about two global icons and towering persons of African descent whose exemplary lives and friendship hold lessons for humanity and Africans, USAfrica Founder Chido Nwangwu takes a measure of their works and consequence to write that Mandela and Achebe have left “footprints of greatness.”
He chronicles, movingly, his 1998 reporting from the Robben Island jail room in South Africa where Mandela was held for decades through his 20 years of being close to Achebe. He moderated the 2012 Achebe Colloquium at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.“I’ll forever remember having walked inside and peeped through that historic Mandela jail cell (where he was held for most of his 27 years in unjust imprisonment) at the dreaded Robben Island, on March 27, 1998, alongside then Editor-in-chief of TIME magazine and later news chief executive of the CNN, Walter Isaacson (and others) when President Bill Clinton made his first official trip to South Africa and came to Robben Island. Come to this island of scourge and you will understand, in part, the simple greatness and towering grace of Nelson Mandela”, notes Chido Nwangwu, award-winning writer, multimedia specialist and founder of USAfricaonline.com, the first African-owned U.S-based newspaper published on the internet, in his first book; he writes movingly from his 1998 reporting from South Africa on Mandela. http://www.mandelaachebechido.com/
•Dr. Chido Nwangwu, moderator of the Achebe Colloquium (Governance, Security, and Peace in Africa) December 7-8, 2012 at Brown University in Rhode Island and former adviser on Africa business/issues to the Mayor of Houston, is the Founder & Publisher of Houston-based USAfrica multimedia networks since 1992, first African-owned, U.S-based newspaper published on the internet USAfricaonline.com; CLASSmagazine, AchebeBooks.com, the USAfrica-powered e-groups of AfricanChristians, Nigeria360 and the largest pictorial events megasite on the African diaspora www.PhotoWorks.TV . He was recently profiled by the CNN International for his pioneering works on multimedia/news/public policy projects for Africans and Americans. http://edition.cnn.com/video/#/video/international/2010/07/29/mpa.african.media.bk.a.cnn e-mail: Chido247@Gmail.com wireless 1-832-45-CHIDO (24436).
Nigeria’s Federal Republic of Insecurity. By Chido Nwangwu, Publisher of USAfrica, USAfricaonline.com and the Nigeria360 e-group. http://usafricaonline.com/2011/12/17/nigeria-federal-republic-of-insecurity-by-chido-nwangwu/
IF any of the Nigerian President’s 100 advisers has the polite courage for the extraordinary task of reminding His Excellency of his foremost, sworn, constitutional obligation to the national interest about security and safety of Nigerians and all who sojourn in Nigeria, please whisper clearly to Mr. President that I said, respectfully: Nigerians, at home and abroad, are still concerned and afraid for living in what I call Nigeria’s Federal Republic of Insecurity. FULL text of commentary, exclusively, at USAfricaonline.com http://usafricaonline.com/2011/12/17/nigeria-federal-republic-of-insecurity-by-chido-nwangwu/
USAfrica: BOKO HARAM’s latest killings sharpen divide for security team at Nigeria’s presidency. By Chido Nwangwu
Dancing with “ghosts” of BOKO HARAM, President Jonathan, Sultan Abubakar and Nigeria’s national security. By Dr. Chido Nwangwu
Eight lessons of the 1994 Rwanda Genocide. By Chido Nwangwu, Publisher of USAfrica multimedia networks, Houston. http://usafricaonline.com/2009/11/01/chido-8lessons-rwanda-genocide/
Margaret Thatcher, Mandela and Africa. By Chido Nwangwu, Founder & Publisher of USAfrica, and the first African-owned, U.S-based newspaper published on the internet USAfricaonline.com. Click for newscast video of London-based SkyNEWS, the global, 24-hour British international tv network’s interview with USAfrica’s Publisher Chido Nwangwu on April 11, 2013 regarding this latest commentary http://youtu.be/G0fJXq_pi1c )
There’s a compelling political trinity to Nelson Mandela: the man, the messiah and the mystique. http://usafricaonline.com/2013/07/18/mandela-95-hearty-cheers-to-his-footprints-of-greatness-by-chido-nwangwu/