‘It’s despair on all fronts,’ says Ebola aid worker

Monday, September 15, 2014
By Paul Martin

By Brady Dennis
September 15, 2014

For Lance Plyler and the other health workers treating Ebola patients at the small missionary hospital in Liberia, exhaustion came in many forms.

The physical demands of working under layer upon layer of protective gear, sweating profusely in the sweltering African heat. The mental challenge of staying alert to the risk of infection while caring for patients suffering bouts of vomiting, diarrhea and fever. The realization that no matter how hard they tried, most patients would die anyway.

“It’s despair on all fronts,” said Lance Plyler, a U.S. doctor who led the Liberian disaster response efforts for the international relief organization Samaritan’s Purse. “It wears on you after a while. . . . It breaks some people.”

President Obama plans on Tuesday to announce that the U.S. will significantly ramp up its aid to Ebola-ravaged countries in West Africa — from sending supplies and setting up field hospitals to providing health-care personnel and training local medical staff. The commitment comes days after the World Health Organization issued a plea for more volunteers, saying at least 500 doctors and 1,000 additional health-care workers are needed.

But while the additional U.S. aid will come as good news to West African officials and aid organizations, it remains unclear how quickly it will make an impact on the ground. International relief groups that have shouldered the burden for months say their staffers are fatigued and fragile. Finding volunteers to relieve workers battling the epidemic has been a struggle.

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