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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

U.S. Troops Head To Africa To Fight Ebola

Links:  A. 3,000 U.S. Troops To Deploy To West Africa
            B. U.S. Troops To Africa For Ebola Mission
            C. U.S. Military Quarantined After Ebola Trip

I have been finding reasons to avoid writing this post because I'm not very clear on my own
emotions regarding this mission.  In September, when the Ebola virus was tearing a hole through Liberia and Guinea, President Obama anticipated the need for U.S. assistance and ordered the military to respond (I'm assuming that the military and not the President's staff, developed the deployment agenda).  A plan was created which would eventually call for three thousand troops from the 101st Airborne Division to deploy to locations in West Africa (see Links A and B).  The first group of U.S. military personnel, Army Major General Darryl A. Williams and his staff of ten, just completed a tour of Liberia.  During the tour Major General Williams and his crew observed the screening procedures and medical assistance measures in place in all areas of the country.  Its safe to say that they reached some level of exposure to the virus.  As is explained in link C, they will be isolated and monitored for twenty-one days, which is understandable.

As the first link points out, the military will be tasked with building a 25-bed portable hospital in Liberia.  It is expected that 17 treatment centers will eventually be built in the area.  Along with building facilities to treat patients with Ebola, the U.S. military will train up to 500 health-care workers a week to combat the disease.  My friends in the region tell me that currently "you can't throw a stone without hitting a white person".  I assume that many of the white people in question are Americans, as my cousin in Bamako tells me that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has commandeered the nicest hotel in town.  My close friend, who owns a luxury car business in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, is very impressed with the medical facilities that seem to be popping up all over the country.  Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) is there, and the World Health Organization is too.  The International Red Cross (IRC), which has permanent offices in all the capital cities of the region, has been active from the beginning, and are probably responsible for keeping the number of Ebola cases as low as they are.  In the Spring, with the first confirmed cases, the IRC began sending volunteers out into the rural areas of Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Sierra Leone, and Cote d'Ivoire, to stress the need for sanitation and education.  Most importantly, the IRC took note of the local health facilities and what was needed to set-up screening centers and isolation units.  I am impressed with the response to date of the United States and European health communities.  So far the procedures put in place appear to be working.

I have heard it said that the true reason behind President Obama ordering troops to deploy to Africa is to assist in evacuations and crowd control.  I assume "crowd control" would include "riot control".  Orderly crowds being moved by authorities have a tendency to get out of hand in Africa (my comment is not racist; it is the product of my years of living in Africa).  Actually, orderly crowds can become quite "disorderly" anywhere, not just in Africa.  I believe the initial projections by the experts in Atlanta (CDC) forecast that the outbreak would have spread to Mali and Cote d'Ivoire by now.  Given the impossibility of adequately controlling border crossings (sound familiar?), the CDC probably assumed that infected persons who had not yet begun to show symptoms would be traveling as usual.  Keep in mind that many folks see the borders in African as more of a suggestion than anything else.  The valuable gold and diamond mines in
Diamond Mine in Sierra Lione
Mali, and other countries, traditionally employ workers from bordering states.  I believe that the CDC was correct in assuming that the situation would be much more serious than it is, hence the in-depth planning for mandatory evacuations and (if needed) crowd control.  This is in addition to the fact that some people will not voluntarily leave their homes, and in the instance of a deadly virus like Ebola, they cannot be left behind. The issue is not just the health of the resident; anyone who stays in the contamination zone becomes a potential carrier, who may find a way to rejoin healthy people and start the contagion all over.  At this point I haven't bought into the argument that the troops are really here to control people.  I'm not that cynical.  But then see me again next week.   

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