31 July 2014

Liberia: U.S.$20 Million to Fight Ebola, Liberia's Health Ministry Proposes

Finance Minister Amara Konneh said the Health Ministry has submitted an action plan totaling US$20 million to combat the deadly Ebola virus. Speaking on Hott FM on Wednesday, Minister Konneh said the government will do all it can to source funding for the fight against the deadly virus which has claimed over a hundred and twenty eight persons including a high ranking official at the Finance Ministry headed by Konneh.

"The ministry of health submitted to the national task force, which you know the President chairs, an operational budget of US$ 20 Million to fight this disease. We are not going to go into line items and discussions on this," he said.

"I'm working with my colleagues in the government- yesterday, I met with Governor Mills Jones; he met with the legislature, the ways and means committee. We are going to do everything to mobilize resources, if that's what it will take to fight the disease." Minister Konneh said the government realizes the importance of stopping the spread of the disease and as such it has to bring forth all the resources needed.

"Of course, we are a government and a national emergency has been declared; there is a threat to our national existence. What good is it to have money in the bank and to have assets that you can put up as collateral for a loan? What good is it to have all these relationships with the rest of the world if you are not alive?" He said.

With President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf announcing on Wednesday in a nationwide address that the government has made an initial contribution of US$5 Million to combat the disease. Kendall Kauffeldt of Samaritan's who's been in Liberia for 10 years and considers it home, at a meeting of the task force on Tuesday reiterated that there are limited resources to adequately contain the disease.

He said, though members from his organization handling patients with the disease have been trained by MSF to handle Ebola,it's a "heavy load on their shoulders and at this point" and this crisis is "beyond a disaster in my opinion." and that we are still "dealing with the tip of the iceburg at this point."He said there is a need for a strong international plea for help as their centers in Foya and Monrovia are both full.The Samaritan's Purse ELWA center, which was made for 18 persons now has 25. They turned people away today because there's no room in the center.He said in Foya they receive daily threats and expats have been held hostage, and their vehicles destroyed. Insecurity makes it almost impossible, as does a lack of resources and international support, and not enough trained staff to help tackle the disease at the treatment centers.

"We can no longer safely operate," the centers, and at this point they are putting their staff at great risk," he said in the meeting. He said some healthcare workers are not showing up to work because they are scared, adding,"our involvement is costing our lives." He said they can no longer participate in the Case Management Centers (CMC's) and said: "we truly wish we could."

Medecins Sans Frontiers Country Director Lindis Hurum said that MSF would not leave Liberia adding that she told the government 5 weeks ago that Liberia needed immediate attention. "We are not without limits." She said only Samaritans Purse helped when they asked the international community for help. Hurum said MSF does not have enough doctors, nurses or sanitation specialists. "Without that it is unsafe to run a treatment center," she said.

"It's almost unthinkable that we can say we can't do anything in Liberia ... I don't know how we can help you ... this is beyond MSF, it's an international issue.We can't treat them, in a few weeks "those 50 could be 300." Commenting on the closure of the Finance ministry and the sending home of employees on Monday, Minister Konneh said the decision was right.

"Our decision to close down the ministry of finance and development planning and sanitize it; to ask our colleagues who came in contact with the late Patrick Sawyer to avail themselves to the monitoring by the ministry of health is the right decision," he said.

Latest Ebola numbers

As of July 28, 2014 the health ministry is reporting 15 new deaths with eight out of Lofa, four from Montserrado and three from Nimba. The total confirmed Ebola deaths stands at 76, with Lofa accounting for 38, Bong 4, Margibi 2, Montserrado 30 and Nimba one. The ministry is reporting that confirmed, probable and suspected cases emanating from the deadly virus now stands at 360 with total confirmed, probable and suspected deaths at 181 as of July 28, 2014. Total cases among health care workers is now 47 cases and 28 deaths both cumulative.

In Lofa County, the Tellewoyan Hospital (Both OPD & IPD) was closed due to exposure by a case in the holding room according to the health ministry. Health workers threatened to stop working if risk benefit is not given, but a draft risk-benefit budget was draft for WHO support.

Health Workers and Burial Team also threatened boycott if they are not paid by Wednesday, July 30, 2014 and there are currently six (6) bodies pending burial as a health Worker from Gbalakpalasu got infected. There is also a high demand for security, specifically the Police as there are threats from unidentified persons to burn the hospital and disrupt burials.

In Popolahun, the ministry said the Superintendent and some town officials issued apologies for the incident leading to the destruction of an ambulance. They also guaranteed the safety and security of SP, MSF and WHO in the District and County at large. In Bomi County the ministry stated that both probable and negative cases are being held in the same room with no attention and the county is requesting training for all health workers.

In Nimba County there has been two deaths among the probable cases/contact within the past 24 hours. The county is said to be having a regular Ebola coordination meeting with 21 Laboratory personnel trained by National technical team. There has also been Social mobilization and behavior change communication, team from UNICEF dispatched to the county. County leadership warned local journalists to desist from broadcasting misleading information about Ebola.


The county is reporting inadequate specimen collection tube, lack of operational fund, inadequate supplies including PPEs, body bags, spray cans, stationeries and gloves, no vehicle for burial and a holding center at G.W. Harley Hospital is still under construction. There is still a high denial rate of Ebola by quarters of the population and an inadequate number of motorbikes for contact listing and tracing. There is no fuel support for movements.

Deputy Minister of Health Dr. Bernice Dahn at Tuesday's task force meeting said the Ebola treatment center in ELWA hospital in Monrovia is overcrowded as there are 25 Ebola patients at the center, which is created for 18 persons and it included the two American doctors. The center is the only Ebola treatment facility in the center in Monrovia and the community is resisting the expansion of the unit.

Dr. Dahn said the Health Ministry called the Defense Ministry asking for support, but they did not come. Local staffers of the ministry are afraid because the two expats got sick, they may get the virus. For that reason, some did not come to work on Tuesday. She told the meeting that the government needs to recruit staff to train in order to send back to JFK hospital.

She said in Lofa County, the staff from the Foya Ebola Treatment center was attacked and their vehicle destroyed by community members when they went to pick up an Ebola patient adding that this has led expat staff to feeling unsecured. Dr. Dahn also said the Samaritans Purse has pulled out of the Foya site and that in Montserrado County, "the work is becoming overwhelming." Bomi County is said to also be experiencing a serious outbreak. From Dr. Dahn's explanation the President looked solemn and said: "From what I gather, this whole thing is on an uprise...that's what's scary."

President Sirleaf mentioned temperature checks and others at the borders and the person next to someone remarked: "that should have been done months ago." The deputy health minister also said more facilities are needed and that health workers who have gotten the disease are getting it in hospitals, not the treatment centers. Addressing the nation on additional measures the government is taking to battle the deadly virus, President Sirleaf on Wednesday said the dreadful virus has over tasked Liberia's public health facilities and capabilities. "This is unprecedented. The World Health Organization has upgraded the outbreak to Grade 3 Emergency the highest in its response category," she said.

"The nature of the virus and its rapid spread throughout Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, attacking, as it has, the way of life of the people of the Mano River Basin, have posed national, regional and international threats to public health and safety of the gravest proportions." She gave an initial US$5Million towards the fight as a GoL initial contribution.

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