The Ebola hospital in Liberia that isn’t for Liberians

The Pentagon is set to build a facility to treat health workers in Liberia. Eighty Liberian health workers have already died from the disease. But the Pentagon’s new facility isn’t for them. It’s for foreign health workers only.

It may seem strange and archaic to reserve a healthcare facility for foreigners only – like labelling a bench  “whites only” – but this is effectively what the Pentagon has done, according to Buzzfeed News.

“The goal is to provide assurance for health workers,” said Nancy Lindborg, the assistant administrator for the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance of US Agency for International Development in a call to journalists. Foreign ones at least.

On Monday, Lindborg told journalists that the facility would cater exclusively for foreign health workers. A press officer confirmed the story to Buzzfeed on Tuesday.

Liberia is currently at the frontline of the Ebola battle, which has already killed 2 228 people. Half of these deaths have come in the past three works, and not even health workers are safe from the disease. That’s where the Pentagon’s $22-million facility comes in.

There are 152 Liberian health workers currently infected with Ebola. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that conventional control methods, such as protective suits, are not effective in Liberia. The disease has been nearly impossible to contain, and international aid organisations say that the global community has failed in its response to the outbreak.

Health experts are already questioning the infrastructure of the Pentagon’s proposed facility, which is said to contain only 25 beds.

Dr Ian Norton, a coordinator of the foreign medical teams that enter Liberia, told Buzzfeed that field hospitals are “very much surgery oriented; there are a lot of theaters and high intensive care”.

“When Norton was informed by BuzzFeed News about the $22-million, 25-bed facility, he laughed,” writes Buzzfeed journalist, Jina Moore.

While the Pentagon is set to spend $22-million on this single facility, international health aid organisation, Moore says, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has projected spending $39-million to combat the disease in its entirety this year.

“We don’t need 25 beds. We need 1,000 beds, yesterday,” Sophie Delaunay, executive director of MSF-USA, told Buzzfeed. “If this is the only offer that is going to be practically implemented on the ground, it’s paltry in the face of all the needs.”

The international community has been criticised for its lack of response to the disease, leaving experts on the front lines asking just how important African lives are to the world at large. The Pentagon’s latest move is bound to add to the outrage. Meanwhile West Africans continue to die in numbers.

Read the full story on Buzzfeed.

– Image via MSF/ Sylvain Cherkaoui