West Africa: Top U.S. Official Visits Ebola-Hit Nations

27 October 2014

The highest-ranking American government official yet to visit Ebola-hit nations has criticised the international response to the crisis and moved to encourage Americans to volunteer to fight the outbreak.

The Obama administration's ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, told the American television network, NBC News, that although many nations were supporting UN resolutions and praising the response of Britain and the U.S., "they themselves haven't taken the responsibility yet to send docs, to send beds, to send a reasonable amount of money."

She also said U.S. authorities had to strike a balance between addressing public fear that Ebola would spread in the United States and encouraging more Americans to volunteer their services.

The government and the people of the United States needed to make clear "how much we value their [volunteers'] service, how much we value their contribution," she said in a newsclip posted by NBC.

"We need to encourage more, we need many more than are going right now and we need to find a way when they come home that they are treated like conquering heroes and not stigmatized for the tremendous work that they have done."

During her first stop, in Guinea on Sunday, Power tweeted:

"Heartbreaking change in Guinea: nobody touches, hugs or attends gatherings. Said one: 'It's very hard on us. The most imp[ortant] things are missing.'

"Scale of need is staggering. Lack of ambulances/fuel/radios or ability to keep files on patients... most basic resources will help save lives."

"Epidemic can be defeated, but, as one NGO worker in Guinea told me, 'we are running behind a train & the train is going faster than us.'"

Power's office said in a news release she will also visit Sierra Leone and Liberia "to demonstrate U.S. support for these nations and their efforts to combat this deadly disease, and to draw attention to the need for increased support for the international response."

She will then travel on to Ghana and to Brussels, where she will meet European Union and Belgian officials about international efforts to combat the virus and deliver an address on "the need for a robust, coordinated response."

U.S. news outlets are giving extensive coverage to the experience of an American nurse who was quarantined after arriving home from an assignment with Doctors Without Borders in Sierra Leone.

She wrote in a column in the Dallas Morning News that she had been greeted with "a frenzy of disorganization [and] fear" and she was concerned that other volunteers would also face the same ordeal, of being "made to feel like criminals and prisoners."

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