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What The U.S. Has Given To Fight Ebola, From Thermometers To Soap

The U.S. is providing supplies to combat Ebola. But people are needed as well.
John Moore
Getty Images
The U.S. is providing supplies to combat Ebola. But people are needed as well.

Over the past month, the U.S. has begun to ramp up aid to Ebola-stricken countries in West Africa. U.S. contributions could soon top $250 million dollars, according to the White House National Security Council.

You might wonder what kind of aid is being provided. So did we. Here's a sampling, drawn from information provided by the , the and the :

50,000 bars of soap

10,000 sets of personal protective equipment

10,000 Ebola test kits

5,629 metric tons of lentils, rice, soy-fortified bulgur, vegetable oil and yellow split peas

2,400 buckets of chlorine disinfectant

100 rolls of plastic sheeting, which can be used to construct Ebola treatment centers.

320 infrared thermometers

25-bed hospital for treating healthcare workers who might become infected.

2 water treatment systems

2 portable water tanks

Body bags [number not provided]

But there's a vital component missing from the list: The people needed to bring the outbreak under control. The CDC has somewhere around 100 specialists working in Liberia, the nation hardest hit by the virus. USAID has just 27.

And though the Department of Defense has offered to erect a 25-bed field hospital, it hasn't offered any personnel to staff it.

By contrast, the much smaller nation of Cuba just offered to send 165 doctors, nurses and specialists to aid the outbreak in Sierra Leone.

The World Health Organization says every 70 beds devoted to Ebola patients require between 200 and 250 staff to care for them properly. Many of those workers could be local, but there's an enormous need for outside expertise as well.

The non-profit , which has facilities throughout the region, says Ebola cases are surging, and they can't keep up. "They were turning [away] between 30-40 people a day in Monrovia alone," Sophie Delaunay, the organization's executive director, tells NPR's Jackie Northam. "This is an untenable situation for our teams."

Editor's note: The original headline for this post, "What The U.S. Has Given To Fight Ebola (And Why It's Not Enough)," could be read as judging the U.S. effort. That was not our intent, and we have revised the headline.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

Geoff Brumfiel works as a senior editor and correspondent on NPR's science desk. His editing duties include science and space, while his reporting focuses on the intersection of science and national security.
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