The Obama administration is ramping up its response to West Africa’s Ebola crisis, preparing to assign 3,000 U.S. military personnel to the afflicted region to supply medical and logistical support to overwhelmed local health care systems and to boost the number of beds needed to isolate and treat victims of the epidemic.
President Barack Obama planned to announce the stepped-up effort Tuesday during a visit to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta amid alarm that the outbreak could spread and that the deadly virus could mutate into a more easily transmitted disease.
The new U.S. muscle comes after appeals from the region and from aid organizations for a heightened U.S. role in combatting the outbreak blamed for more than 2,200 deaths.
Administration officials said Monday that the new initiatives aim to:
— Train as many as 500 health care workers a week.
— Erect 17 heath care facilities in the region of 100 beds each.
— Set up a joint command headquartered in Monrovia, Liberia, to coordinate between U.S. and international relief efforts.
— Provide home health care kits to hundreds of thousands of households, including 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.
Meanwhile, a Senate panel scheduled an afternoon hearing on the crisis. Expected to testify were Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Dr. Kent Brantly, an American physician who contracted Ebola while working in Liberia but recovered after treatment with an experimental drug.
Obama administration officials said the cost of the stepped-up effort to combat the disease would come from $500 million in overseas contingency operations, such as the war in Afghanistan,that the Pentagon already has asked Congress to redirect to carry out humanitarian efforts in Iraq and in West Africa. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the plans on the record before Obama’s announcement
The officials said it would take about two weeks to get U.S. forces on the ground.
Report compiled with information from The Associated Press.