While members of our Ebola Response Team have been treating Ebola patients and working in facilities across Liberia for many weeks, Heart to Heart’s own Ebola Treatment Unit has been coming together.
The 50-bed unit has been under construction in the town of Tappita. And now, just about 90 days from when Heart to Heart declared it would go to Liberia to fight Ebola – the ETU is up and running.
The Ebola Treatment Unit is in Tappita, a town about an 8 hour drive from Liberia’s capital of Monrovia, in Nimba County. The unit was built here as the town serves as a crossroads in this remote corner of Liberia. HHI took on the responsibility of running an ETU there as part of the coordinated international response to combat the spread of Ebola. This is just one of several ETUs that are already in operation, or will soon be, across Liberia. The goal was to rapidly expand the capacity to combat the virus. While the epidemic is still raging in West Africa, the efforts of our team and the greater response is having a positive impact in Liberia.
The ‘suspect’ ward, where patients will await test results to determine whether they have contracted Ebola or another illness.
The construction of this Ebola Treatment Unit was managed by the US Army Corps of Engineers and the 36th Engineering Brigade based in Ft. Hood, Texas. The 50-bed ETU is a large compound, akin to a mobile hospital, with areas for patient triage and large tents for suspect cases and for patient treatment. It also has ‘back’ areas for staff and for the supplies needed to operate the unit and to treat people with Ebola. The facility also generates it’s own power thanks to two large diesel generators that allow the ETU to operate 24/7.
Members of our Ebola Response Team take some downtime in the ETU’s supply area.
Major funding for the ETU in Tappita comes from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Office for Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), as well as from generous donations from individuals who continue to help support HHI’s overall operations in Liberia to combat Ebola.
Our team members remain hard at work. The Ebola Treatment Unit is open. Progress is being made in the fight against Ebola. Please continue to support this critical effort.
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U.S. Senator Chris Coons is the first member of Congress to travel to Liberia since the start of the Ebola outbreak. During his four day trip, he visited with deployed American troops, met with Liberian political leaders and explored Heart to Heart International’s new Ebola Treatment Unit in the town of Tappita.
HHI’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Rene Vega (center, in blue) escorts Senator Coons and Ambassador Deborah Malec, along with Liberian health and government officials, on a tour of the Tappita ETU.
Senator Coons of Delaware currently chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs. He said his trip to Liberia was partly to remind Americans that the Ebola epidemic is far from over, to make a holiday visit with the troops and to provide some oversight of the funds committed to fighting Ebola.
Coons: “There are more than 2,000 U.S. troops currently serving on the front lines of our fight against Ebola, building hospitals and field clinics, but no Member of Congress has visited them yet. I think it’s important to show them our support, especially during the holiday season while they’re away from their loved ones. Congress also just approved more than $2.5 billion in emergency funding to fight the spread of Ebola in West Africa, and to ensure the virus does not overrun the region again. It’s Congress’ job to perform responsible oversight of that investment.”
Accompanying the senator on the tour of HHI’s Ebola Treatment Unit was US Ambassador to Liberia Deborah Malac and Major General Gary Volesky, commander of the 101st Airborne and overall commander of US troops in Liberia. Maj. Gen. Volesky had been to the Tappita site previously, as construction for the ETU was managed by the 36th Engineer Brigade, from Fort Hood, Texas.
As the Huffington Post reported, Coons said he took plenty of precautions to avoid contracting the disease. “Every place I’ve gone I’m washing my hands with chlorine. Instead of handshakes we’re doing the ‘elboa,'” he said, referring to bumping elbows. Though the trip was considered a ‘low-risk’ visit the senator will follow protocols established by the Centers for Disease Control, his health will be monitored and his temperature taken every day for three weeks as a precaution.
Coons also told the Washington Post he had seen first-hand how international groups, like Heart to Heart International, along with local Liberian efforts had changed the trajectory of the epidemic in the country.
At 7:30 in the morning there is pounding on the front door of our two-bedroom apartment, which doubles as our temporary Heart to Heart International – Liberia office.
James Rogers, a Liberian man who will head-up our security team at the ETU when it opens, is excited to report that he has rented another vehicle, a well traveled Toyota Land Cruiser that actually has a functioning air-conditioner, to make a four hour one-way-trip to Bong County to pick up Dr. Vega and return him to Monrovia.
In this nearly all-cash society, James is also needing more money so he can put gas in the dark green 4-wheel drive beast before he heads out. We go through a lot of cash on a weekly basis and in many cases need to pay for things in advance. The apartment, for example, is on a six month lease… all of it due up-front.
We are able to survive here right now only by the grace of our donors who have provided support in the first weeks of Operation Ebola. But even those resources are becoming stressed, and we need additional support.
After a few difficult weeks, things are starting to come together. Nurses and doctors are scheduled to join us in Liberia, and we are getting the “ground-game” organized to support the ETU.
This is a team effort and our donors are critical members of this team. We thank you for supporting us and keeping us in your thoughts and prayers.
The HHI team, along with USAID workers, touring the town of Tappita in Nimba County. The ETU is to be built next to the hospital seen in the photo.