WASHINGTON (AP) – Health workers on the front line of the Ebola crisis say the need for urgent help isn’t letting up, as Congress begins considering President Barack Obama’s US$6.2 billion emergency aid request to fight the disease.
Despite reports that the number of infections is slowing in some parts of West Africa, cases still are rising in other areas – and aid organisations say thousands of health care workers are needed to treat Ebola patients over the next few months.
“We’re not yet at a point where we can have confidence that we’re turning the corner, even in Liberia,” said Andy Gleadle of the Interna-tional Medical Corps, which is run-ning a treatment centre in Liberia and plans to open another in that country and two more in Sierra Leone.
Even with increasing global atten-tion to the epidemic, it takes time to train new health workers, build field hospitals, and buy protective equipment for doctors and nurses. Even if Obama were to give us millions of dollars tomorrow, “it takes weeks to absorb that funding and implement it on the ground”, added Gleadle, who is responsible for the charity’s response in Sierra Leone.
On Wednesday, the Senate Appropriations Committee was to question Obama administration officials about the US response to the Ebola outbreak as it begins evaluating the emergency aid request. It includes $4.64 billion in immediate spending to fight the epidemic in West Africa, shore up US preparedness, and speed the development and testing of Ebola vaccines and treatments.
More than $1.5 billion would be for a contingency fund to deal with any unexpected developments.
“The situation does change quite dramatically from one day to the next, one week to the next,” Dr Tom Frieden, director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told The Associated Press. Cases continue to pop up in new areas across the three hard-hit West African countries – Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, he said.