Ebola is only the latest among several large-scale humanitarian responses around the world that USAID’s disaster response officials are currently managing.
It’s the first time in history the agency has had to respond to four such humanitarian operations. The other three are in South Sudan, Syria and Iraq.
In a radio interview, Thomas Staal, senior deputy assistant administrator in USAID’s Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance, said that the international humanitarian agencies coordinating on all four situations are currently “at their limit.”
Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone are facing the worst Ebola virus outbreak in history, and the team responsible for coordinating the U.S. government response effort has a grim equipment request: more body bags.
With more than 1,000 deaths already reported and concerns that the virus could spread further, humanitarian agencies and their partners taking part in the international emergency response are preparing to ramp up their efforts.
Tim Callaghan, the U.S. Agency for International Development’s disaster assistance response team leader, said that to treat patients, medical professionals must receive additional training specific to the virus and follow a “meticulous” system to ensure they are confident and capable enough to mitigate risks.
USAID’s team is responsible for assessing conditions that might hamper the response and assistance effort. Callaghan did not identify any current bottlenecks for equipment, personnel or coordination, but did note that the persistence of rumors and misinformation has made things more challenging.