Sunday, September 28, 2014

Questions Re US Response To Ebola Outbreak In Liberia

On September 16, President Obama announced a multimillion-dollar U.S. response to the spreading contagion. Obama's announcement comes on the heels of growing international impatience with what critics have called the U.S. government's "infuriatingly" slow response to the outbreak.
Assistance efforts have already stoked controversy, with a noticeable privilege of care being afforded to foreign healthcare workers over Africans.

After two infected American missionaries were administered Zmapp, a life-saving experimental drug, controversy exploded when reports emerged that Doctors Without Borders had previously decided not to administer it to the Sierra Leonean doctor Sheik Umar Khan, who succumbed to Ebola after helping to lead the country's fight against the disease. The World Health Organization similarly refused to evacuate the prominent Sierra Leonean doctor Olivet Buck, who later died of the disease as well.

The Pentagon provoked its own controversy when it announced plans to deploy a $22 million, 25-bed U.S. military field hospital—reportedly for foreign health workers only.
One particular component of the latest assistance package promises to be controversial as well: namely, the deployment of 3,000 U.S. troops to Liberia, where the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) will establish a joint command operations base to serve as a logistics and training center for medical responders. see earlier post here

Few would oppose a robust U.S. response to the Ebola crisis, but the militarized nature of the White House plan comes in the context of a broader U.S.-led militarization of the region. The soldiers in Liberia, after all, will not be the only American troops on the African continent. In the six years of AFRICOM's existence, the U.S. military has steadily and quietly been building its presence on the continent through drone bases and partnerships with local militaries.

The U.S. operation in Liberia warrants many questions. Will military contractors be used in the construction of facilities and execution of programs? Will the U.S.-built treatment centers be temporary or permanent? Will the treatment centers double as research labs? What is the timeline for exiting the country? And perhaps most significantly for the long term, will the Liberian operation base serve as a staging ground for non-Ebola related military operations?
The use of the U.S. military in this operation should raise red flags for the American public as well. After all, if the military truly is the governmental institution best equipped to handle this outbreak, it speaks worlds about the neglect of civilian programs at home as well as abroad.

whole article here

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