U.S. Ambassador Deborah Malac held a media roundtable with 30 Liberian journalists Tuesday to screen the video of President Barack Obama’s message to the people of West Africa about the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) and to give them an overview of the $19.6 million the United States has committed to fight the disease.
In his message, President Obama assured the people of Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria—those hardest hit by the Ebola outbreak–that the prayers of the American people are with those who have lost loved ones from the epidemic. He said: “Along with our partners around the world, the United States is working with your governments to help stop this disease. And the first step in this fight is knowing the facts.”
President Obama outlined what steps people can take to protect against contracting the disease and urged those who have symptoms like a high fever to seek immediate help from a health care provider.
President Obama said: “Stopping this disease won’t be easy—but we know how to do it. You are not alone. Together, we can treat those who are sick with respect and dignity. We can save lives. And our countries can work together to improve public health, so this kind of outbreak doesn’t happen again. In this urgent work—and in building a stronger and more prosperous Africa—you’ll continue to have a partner in me and in the United States of America.”
Following the video, Ambassador Deborah Malac outlined the massive assistance that the United States has provided in the anti-Ebola fight. She said the U.S. has committed $19.6 million to combat the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in West Africa since the outbreak was first reported in March 2014.
She noted that a 26-member Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) is in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea to oversee the U.S. Government response to the Ebola crisis.
She also said that the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has more than 70 disease-control experts in West Africa, providing technical expertise to national public health agencies to help prevent, detect, and stop the spread of Ebola.
“In April 2014 the U.S. recognized the need to have testing for Ebola done in Liberia instead of sending to Guinea or Sierra Leone for results,” Ambassador Malac said. “Experts from the U.S. Defense Department’s Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) upgraded the testing laboratory at the Liberia Institute for Biological Research (LIBR) so that the lab could test for Ebola. Since that time, U.S. laboratory experts working in Liberia have helped to more than double LIBR’s testing capacity to 98 Ebola specimens a day from 40 specimens. CDC, in partnership with the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network and the U.S. National Institutes of Health, also established the second Ebola testing laboratory in Liberia, a mobile testing laboratory at the ELWA campus to shorten the response time of tests for patients at the largest facility currently in Liberia.”
She said that in the past week, the U.S. Government, through DART, has airlifted more than 16 tons of medical supplies and emergency equipment to Liberia, including:
- 500 infrared thermometers to bolster Ebola screening efforts
- 5,000 body bags to be distributed to areas of need.
- 10,000 sets of personal protective equipment (PPE)
- 2 water treatment units
- 2 portable water tanks, capable of storing 10,000 liters each
- 100 rolls of plastic sheeting for use in construction of Ebola treatment units.
In addition to bringing in supplies from outside the region, she said the DART has purchased basic supplies locally, including:
–50,000 pieces of soap
–5,200 gallons of chlorine
Ambassador Malac also said USAID has provided the World Health Organization (WHO) with 105,000 sets of PPE for healthcare staff and outbreak investigators in Ebola-affected countries. A charter flight, funded by the U.S. Government and UNICEF, also brought more than 40 tons of chlorine and 400-thousand pairs of medical gloves into Monrovia.
In response to a question about a shooting in West Point in which a teenager died, Ambassador Malac said the United States is interested in the results of an investigation into the circumstances of the shooting.