Liberia has been hit hard by the recent Ebola outbreak, with 14 out of 15 counties reporting confirmed cases of the virus.
Thousands have been impacted, and tens of thousands more are projected to be. And while Ebola has a fatality rate at approximately 50 percent even with treatment, people are also succumbing to the disease because they lack one basic necessity–access to care.
It’s not that people aren’t able to afford Ebola treatment; it’s not about money at this point. The issue is that there aren’t enough care centers in Liberia to treat all the people affected, and sick individuals are being turned away.
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Victor Kemey’s became ill with Ebola and was taken to John F. Kennedy hospital in Monrovia only to be turned away by staff who told him there were no available beds. Overnight, the boy’s condition worsened, and Kemey traveled to the Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) Ebola treatment facility on the outskirts of Monrovia where he was told the same thing.
Victor’s son died later that day in the backseat of his car.
VICE News, reporting from the scene, witnessed other people waiting outside the gates as well as ambulance loads of sick patients being refused. And the doctors aren’t to blame-there simply aren’t enough staff or resources to treat everyone who is showing up at the facility.
“The facility is completely overcapacity, and we’re having to turn people away,” Caitlin Ryan, an MSF communications officer told VICE. “We’re utterly overwhelmed, there are no other words for it. This is a humanitarian disaster, not just an epidemic.”
To help Liberia and the other West African countries suffering from the Ebola epidemic, the United States is sending over 3,000 military professionals to set up and staff treatment facilities. CNBC reports the military intends to build 17 treatment centers, each with 100 beds in Liberia over the upcoming weeks, and once operations are in full swing, 500 health care workers will be trained each week to further staff existing facilities.
There is one major downfall to the relief plan, however. The Liberian government indicates 1,000 beds are needed within the upcoming week alone to adequately treat the epidemic, and that number may rise as the disease spreads. Liberia is so overwhelmed that bodies of the dead are being left in their homes for up to three days before removal because burial teams are too inundated to reach them sooner.
What’s more, health care workers are also becoming ill; approximately 150 Liberian staff have contracted the virus, and of those, 100 have died. Due to the serious risk and poor working conditions, some hospital workers have gone on strike, further decreasing the number of staff available to treat the ill.
By the time the U.S.–or any other–aid arrives, hundreds may have become Ebola death statistics simply from lack of treatment.
“We cannot make the case stronger,” Liberian Information Minister Lewis Brown said, asking the world to send help earlier this month. “We demand a response from the international community that equals the challenge we face. We need an unprecedented response, just as we face an unprecedented outbreak.”
The latest statistics indicate as many as 20,000 people could be affected by Ebola by the time the epidemic hits its peak.