United States Senator from Delaware, Christopher Coons, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs, travelled to Monrovia, Liberia to review the international efforts to stop the spread of the Ebola virus and visit U.S. military servicemen and women deployed as part of Operation United Assistance.
“Ebola has claimed the lives of almost 7,000 men, women, and children, and is still ravaging West Africa,” Senator Coons said prior to his visit. “Congress also just approved more than $2.5 billion in emergency funding to fight the spread of Ebola in West Africa, and to ensure the virus does not overrun the region again. It’s Congress’ job to perform responsible oversight of that investment.”
While in Liberia from December 19-22, Senator Coons met with U.S. Major General Gary Volesky at the Joint Operations Center and was briefed on the status of Operation United Assistance and met with several servicemen and women, including one soldier from his home state of Delaware.
“There are more than 2,000 U.S. troops serving on the front lines of our fight against Ebola, building hospitals and field clinics, but no member of Congress has visited them yet. I think it’s important to show them our support.”
Additionally, U.S. Ambassador to Liberia Deborah Malac accompanied the Senator on a tour of the Ebola testing lab and met with healthcare workers at the Tappita hospital where they spoke with technicians testing samples to determine whether a patient has the Ebola virus. This was followed by an inspection of the newly completed Tappita Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU).
“This trip has given me the opportunity to meet with leaders from the Liberian government, including President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, leaders from the the United Nations, African Union; aid workers from non-governmental organizations and the most recent participants of the State Department’s Mandela Young African Leaders Initiative,” he said in a statement to the press.
Senator Coons also visited the men and women of the U.S. Public Health Service who are serving at the Monrovia Medical Unit (MMU), a 25-bed field hospital treating health care workers suspected of having contracted the Ebola virus.
“The simple question is: how can we get to zero? How do we get to the end of this single, largest and deadliest Ebola outbreak in human history,” the Senator asked during a joint press conference with Ambassador Malac, held at the U.S. Embassy last month. “It is a regional challenge. It is frankly an international challenge, which is why it has called for an international response.”
This was Senator Coons’ third visit to Liberia; however, he is the first member of Congress to visit the country since the start of the Ebola outbreak last year.