WASHINGTON: Congress could approve an $88 million request by President Barack Obama to back expanded efforts to combat Ebola as soon as this week, in a sign of rising US concern over the epidemic.
Obama will travel to Atlanta on Tuesday to meet medical authorities at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and announce new aid to Ebola-affected regions in West Africa, which could include portable hospitals and US experts.
Congress meanwhile is expected to debate and likely pass a temporary government funding bill this week, which includes a White House request for $88 million in funding to fight Ebola.
Obama first said last week that he was going to step up US efforts to fight the Ebola epidemic, which has killed more than 2,400 people.
His remarks, and a recent YouTube message from the president offering guidance to the people of Africa on halting infections, highlight increasing White House concern about the national security and humanitarian implications of the rapid spread of the disease.
The Wall Street Journal said Monday that Obama’s initiative could also include medical supplies and training for local health workers, and would concentrate on controlling the outbreak by improving public health systems in Africa, better training for doctors and nurses and increased international support.
“There’s a lot that we’ve been putting toward this, but it is not sufficient,” Lisa Monaco, Obama’s chief counterterrorism and Homeland Security Advisor told the paper.
“So the president has directed a more scaled-up response and that’s what you’re going to hear more about on Tuesday.”
Obama has said that at this stage he does not believe Ebola presents a direct threat to the United States, but has warned the virus could mutate and become a greater problem inside and outside Africa.
The Pentagon has already announced it will send a 25-bed field hospital Liberia and the US military could help direct supplies, set up tent hospitals and deploy medical personnel needed around the world to isolate and treat those sickened with the disease.
“The military has unique capabilities in terms of logistical capacities, in terms of manpower, in terms of operating in austere environments,” an official familiar with the evolving effort told the Journal.
Obama is also expected to seek commitments of funds, material and health workers when he meets world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly in New York next week.
Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia are the hardest-hit countries and are the main focus of a stepped up World Food Program assistance program.