Africa

Ebola outbreak: Barack Obama 'to pledge US troops to fight virus'

  • 16 September 2014
  • From the section Africa
A health worker brings a woman suspected of having contracted the Ebola virus to an ambulance in Monrovia, Liberia (15 September)
Image caption The World Health Organization warned recently that thousands more cases could occur in Liberia

US President Barack Obama is to announce plans on Tuesday to send 3,000 troops to Liberia to help fight the Ebola virus, US officials say.

It is understood the US military will oversee building new treatment centres and help train medical staff.

There has been criticism of the slow international response to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.

Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea are the worst-hit countries. The outbreak has killed more than 2,400 people.

More than half of those killed by the virus have been in Liberia. The World Health Organization (WHO) warned recently that the country could see thousands of more cases.

Image caption The US says that a priority should be to train healthcare workers
Image caption More than half the deaths from the 2014 Ebola virus outbreak have been in Liberia

United Nations officials will discuss the international response to the outbreak at a meeting in Geneva.

US officials said the aim of the country's anti-Ebola initiative is to:

  • Train up to 500 healthcare workers a week
  • Construct 17 heathcare facilities, each with about 100 beds
  • Establish a joint command based in Monrovia, Liberia, to co-ordinate between US and international relief efforts
  • Distribute home healthcare kits to thousands of households
  • Conduct a home and community-based campaign to train local people in how to handle patients

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has appealed directly to Mr Obama for help in tackling the outbreak.

Several disease experts have welcomed the US plan, though some also question its focus on Liberia.

"We should see all of West Africa now as one big outbreak," says Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, quoted in The New York Times.

"It's very clear we have to deal with all the areas with Ebola."

On Monday, Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama said greater and faster outside help was needed.

Ebola spreads between humans by direct contact with infected blood, bodily fluids or organs, or indirectly through contact with contaminated environments.


Liberia at a glance:

  • Infrastructure devastated by a 14-year civil war
  • About 250,000 people killed in the conflict that ended in 2003
  • One doctor to treat nearly 100,000 people before Ebola outbreak
  • Ebola cases this year: 2,046
  • Ebola deaths this year: 1,224
  • Population: 4.4 million

Source: WHO