Calls intensify for international military response to Ebola

Thursday, September 4, 2014
By Paul Martin

By Caelainn Hogan
September 4, 2014

As the Ebola epidemic threatens to overwhelm response efforts in West Africa, calls for international military assistance are picking up.

The medical charity Doctors Without Borders called on world leaders to send military units with expertise in biohazard containment to combat the worst outbreak of the virus on record.

The European Commission’s humanitarian arm (ECHO) is also calling for military medical intervention to combat the epidemic, including U.S. Army and Navy Seal protection teams.

But ECHO health adviser Jorge Castilla-Echenique warned of the high financial costs involved in a “M.A.S.H. like operation” in an interview with Thomson Reuters Foundation. U.S. Army mobile surgical hospitals have the capacity to serve as fully functional health facilities, but they do not come cheap, he said.

With many major carriers, including British Airways, suspending flights to the worst-affected countries, military forces might also set up “air bridges” needed to move personnel and materials to West Africa and within countries where travel restrictions and quarantines have affected mobility.

More than 3,000 people have been infected with Ebola across Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Nigeria and Senegal. The World Health Organization estimated up to 20,000 people could be infected in the next six months.

The death toll from the epidemic in West Africa has surpassed 1,900 people, the WHO’s chief said Wednesday.

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