The United States spent hundreds of millions of dollars and deployed nearly 3,000 troops to build Ebola treatment centers in West Africa, but only 28 patients have been treated in the centers and most of them never saw a single patient.
“I knew that most of the [Ebola Treatment Units] that were being built may not receive a single patient,” Dr. Francis Kateh, who helped Liberia decide where the centers would be built, told The New York Times. “But at the same, you couldn’t put a stop to that process,” he added. “The train was coming full force.”
Most of the $1.4 billion the U.S. spent to combat Ebola in West Africa went to Liberia, where U.S. troops built 11 treatment centers. Nine of those centers have not had a single Ebola patient, and the other three had only 28 patients combined, reports the Times.
Despite the incredible details of the report, the Times went with the headline: “Empty Ebola Clinics in Liberia Are Seen as Misstep in U.S. Relief Effort.”
By the time the first treatment center was built, the number of Ebola cases in Liberia had fallen dramatically. All but one opened after Dec. 22, when the number of cases had dropped so much officials were talking about closing similar treatment centers built by other organizations.
The U.S. spent $360 million deploying the troops to build those centers, not including the construction and staffing of the centers, or the operating costs. Although few patients were treated, volunteers at the centers did receive valuable training and other forms of assistance were helpful, such as airlifting critical supplies and spending on education and awareness.
But the less expensive and far more flexible tactics used by Liberian residents were far more effective in halting the outbreak, officials told the Times.
“Communities taking responsibility for their own future — not waiting for us, not waiting for the government, not waiting for the international partners, but starting to organize themselves,” Peter Graaff, the leader of the United Nations intervention in Liberia, told the Times.
Volunteers mobilized in some neighborhoods to monitor the sick and dispel rumors about the disease so residents would allow patients to be treated and bodies to be disposed of properly.
“We didn’t want to see our people dying, and there was no one coming in” to help, Amos Marjohn, a neighborhood leader told the Times. “We had to respond very quick and mobilize ourselves.”
In a “weak state,” such as Liberia, “people were used to getting by with little or no help from the government, an ability reinforced by the country’s 14-year civil war,” noted the Times. “And the government did not reach out to them as the outbreak gathered steam.”
“Experts and officials now say that an official push should have been made to help those communities early on.”
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