Doctors Without Borders: Military must do more against Ebola outbreak

The head of Doctors Without Borders’ U.S. branch said Wednesday that the American military must do more than “transport cement” to help fight the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Executive Director Sophie Delaunay said in an interview that the armed forces’ current role in West Africa has been “insufficient,” leaving too much of the work to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

“We did very much welcome the military in this environment,” Delaunay told The Hill. “But from the very beginning, we were critical of the fact that the job of the military would only be building the centers and leaving NGOs to actually run them.”

{mosads}“It’s not enough to just provide funding or to just build the centers,” she added, pointing to desperate needs to staff the facilities and transport supplies.

Delaunay also criticized the slow trickle of dollars coming from the U.S., which she said are just now arriving in West Africa more than the three months after President Obama announced the funds. American aid has been so slow to arrive that the money is no longer needed in the same ways it was planned, she said.

For example, the spread of Ebola has drastically slowed in Liberia, where most U.S. resources have been concentrated, while Sierra Leone has seen an alarming spike in cases in recent weeks.

“Now that [the funding] is being implemented on the ground, due to evolving nature of the outbreak, the needs have changed,” she said.

Doctors Without Borders also raised criticism about the pace of international funding in a grim report released Tuesday, warning that global efforts are “falling dangerously short of expectations.”

The Ebola epidemic re-entered conversations on Capitol Hill this week, as Obama makes his case for a $6.2 billion emergency funding request. The Department of Defense will also hold a briefing on Ebola on Wednesday, its first since Congress returned from the midterm recess.

More than 2,900 members of the U.S. military are currently on the ground in West Africa, an official from the National Security Council said, an increase of about 800 over the last month.

The Pentagon had initially said it would deploy as many as 4,000 troops, though it recently revised that figure to 3,000.

The use of the military to fight Ebola has drawn intense scrutiny from Congress. Top defense officials were grilled at several hearings about how troops would be kept safe from the deadly disease.

The Ebola epidemic, which has now infected 17,000 people across West Africa, was also one of several challenges cited in Obama’s decision to push out Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel last week.

“The system in place at the moment is not fully optimal, that’s for sure,” Delaunay said.

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