U.S. officials are in Liberia to assess progress against the spread of Ebola in the West African nation, where the U.S. government is setting up treatment centers to help victims of the deadly disease.
After meeting in Monrovia today with Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Nancy A. Lindborg, the assistant administrator for the U.S Agency for International Development, said the delegation’s visit was an effort to better understand “the responses going forward.”
Visits throughout the country enabled Lindborg, Dr. Thomas Kenyon, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s director for Global Health, and Michael Lumpkin, the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, to fully understand the complexity of the response to Ebola.
In addition to setting up treatment facilities, U.S. teams have also helped bulk up infection control at other health facilities in the country.
The United States has also helped coordinate international efforts to aid Liberia in its time of need, Lindborg said. She said the response “is historical in what is required. We the United States have leaned very far forward. We mobilized with all the capabilities we have to bring from across the U.S. government. We are very focused on ways to implement a fast and effective response.”
Lumpkin emphasized that the U.S. Defense Department is just “one slice of the whole of U.S. government’s response to this on-going Ebola situation.”
DoD brings unique capabilities
DoD is bringing unique capabilities to the fight, Lumpkin said. These include command-and-control capabilities, logistics expertise, and movement of cargo and equipment via an air bridge.
“We have about 200 people on the ground now,” the assistant secretary said. “We intend to expand that to support requirements to somewhere in the neighborhood of about 3,000 folks.”
Lumpkin said the situation is changing quickly and evolving and that is one of the challenges confronting the aid effort.
“Just the complexity of running an ETU was not apparent to me until I saw it first hand,” he said. “As someone who has spent a career focused on logistics issues, I will tell you a lot goes in to making an Ebola treatment unit safe and effective.”
Health workers are safe
He said health workers were safe because of the discipline and rigor of the precautions the government is taking.
Kenyon visited Liberia last month and said while the epidemic is still ongoing and the situation is serious, there is room for optimism. “We’re seeing signs of progress,” he said. “To bring this epidemic under control we need strong national incident management system in place that is tracking the epidemic and where it’s going, and I’ve seen a lot of progress in that respect.”
Kenyon also noted progress in setting up Ebola treatment units, isolation areas and treatment facilities. The word is also getting out to the people on how the disease is transmitted and what precautions are needed, he said.
(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @garamoneDoDNews)