WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States will ramp up its response to the Ebola crisis in West Africa with plans to build 17 treatment centers, train thousands of healthcare workers and establish a military control center for coordination, U.S. officials said.
The plan will be unveiled by President Barack Obama on Tuesday, senior administration officials told reporters.
Obama, who has called the epidemic a national security crisis, has faced criticism for not doing more to stem the outbreak, which the World Health Organization (WHO) said last week had killed more than 2,400 people out of 4,784 cases in West Africa.
The president will visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta on Tuesday to show his commitment. The stepped-up effort he will announce is to include 3,000 military forces and a joint forces command center in Monrovia, capital of Liberia, to coordinate efforts with the U.S. government and other international partners.
The plan will “ensure that the entire international response effort is more effective and helps to scale up to turn the tide in this crisis,” a senior administration official told reporters on Monday, ahead of the president’s trip.
“The significant expansion that the president will detail … really represents a set of areas where the U.S. military will bring unique capabilities that we believe will improve the effectiveness of the entire global response,” he said.
The treatment centers will have 100 beds each and be built as soon as possible, an official said.
The U.S. plan also focuses on training. A site will be established where military medical personnel will teach some 500 healthcare workers per week for six months or more how to provide care to Ebola patients, officials said.
The WHO estimates that the hardest-hit countries – Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone – need at least three to four times the number of medical and public health workers currently on the ground, or another 600 doctors to care for patients and 1,000 workers to track their contacts.
Obama’s administration has requested an additional $ 88 million from Congress to fight Ebola, including $ 58 million to speed production of the ZMapp experimental antiviral drug and two Ebola vaccine candidates.
Officials said the Department of Defense had requested to reallocate $ 500 million in funds from fiscal 2014 to help cover the costs of the humanitarian mission.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will also support a program to distribute protection kits with sanitizers and medical supplies to 400,000 vulnerable households in Liberia.
(Editing by Nick Macfie)