The Chairman of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations of the US Congress, New Jersey Representative Christopher Smith has assured that his Committee takes the outbreak of Ebola in Liberia and other West African countries very seriously and would work to ensure that the US Government commits funds towards the fight against the deadly virus. Chairman Smith gave these words of assurance during a brief discussion with Liberia’s Foreign Minister Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan after the conclusion of a hearing on the Ebola outbreak in West Africa held Thursday, August 7, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, USA.
Congressman Smith revealed that as a way of scaling up US Government budgetary support towards the fight against tropical diseases, he had introduced in the US Congress “The End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act (HR 4847)”. The Act also aims to support a broad range of implementation and research and development activities to achieve cost-effective and sustainable treatment, control and, where possible, eliminate neglected tropical diseases. Congressman assured that he would include Ebola in a redrafted bill that will be introduced in the US Congress during the coming weeks and hopes that Congress will act on the bill quickly.
Speaking earlier Minister Ngafuan gave Congressman Smith a snapshot of the current Ebola crisis in Liberia, the challenges being encountered as well as the measures that have been taken thus far by the Liberian Government and the Liberian people to bring the disease under control. Minister Ngafuan however revealed that Liberia and other West African countries presently confronting the Ebola outbreak would require an urgent scaling up of financial, logistical, and other forms of assistance from the international community including the US Government in order to put a halt the rapid spread of the disease, which he described as a threat not only to West Africa but the entire world.
The Subcommittee hearing on Ebola which was witnessed by Minister Ngafuan received update from Director of the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) Mr. Tom Frieden, Mr. Ariel Pablos-Méndez, Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Global Health at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Ambassador Bisa Williams, Deputy Assistant Secretary at the Bureau of African Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, Mr. Ken Isaacs, Vice President of Program and Government Relations at Samaritan's Purse, an American Christian NGO working in Liberia in the fight against the virus, and Missionary and Doctor Frank Glover, who intermittently visits Liberia to render medical services at the ELWA Hospital.
During the hearing the Director of the US Center of Disease Control Tom Frieden informed the gathering that his Center had sent 50 personnel to West Africa to assist countries currently affected by the Ebola Outbreak to wage a more effective and efficient battle against the deadly virus. "We can stop Ebola: We know how to do it. We have to stop it at the source in Africa. That's the only way to get control,” said Frieden. Given the severity of the problem, the US Center for Disease Control has now upgraded the Ebola outbreak to a Level 1 Emergency, which according to Director Frieden, means the US Government has increased staff and resources to address the situation, which he fears has the potential to "affect many lives."
US Assistant Administrator for Global Health Ariel Pablos-Méndez, said a disaster assistance response team has been deployed to Liberia and USAID would be flying into the region more personal protective equipment(PPE) to protect doctors and health care workers as they attend to people infected with Ebola "We are confident that we can stop the epidemic," he said. "It will not be easy, and it may take several months.”
For his part, Samaritan’s Purse Vice President for Program and Government Relations Mr. Ken Isaacs said, if urgent and substantial international response is not given to the present situation, epidemiologists expect the Ebola disease to spread, and then to go quiet for three weeks, and then to reemerge even worse.
By: Horatio Bobby Willie – Assistant Minister/Public Affairs