Akex Park

Alex Park

Writing Fellow

Alex Park is a recent graduate of the UC-Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. His work has been published in PBS/MediaShift, New America Media, allAfrica.com, Time.com, and the Believer.

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A recent graduate of the UC-Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, Alex Park is an investigative journalist with an interest in global agriculture. He has blogged in South Africa and reported on Cyprus, and in college he published an award-winning paper on a 2008 period of anti-immigrant violence in South Africa, since cited in academic works. Currently, his interests lie explaining complex social systems—be they governments, conflicts, trade patterns, or waves of immigration—for a general audience. His work has been published on PBS/MediaShift, New America Media, allAfrica.com, the Believer, and Time.com

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Should the Military Treat Ebola Patients in Africa?

| Wed Oct. 15, 2014 5:42 PM EDT
US Marines arrive in Monrovia to provide support to Liberians in the fight against Ebola.

At the request of the Liberian government, American troops have set up shop in the country to help deliver aid and build treatment centers. It's all part of an effort to slow the disease's spread and, hopefully, mitigate some of the outbreak's more pernicious side effects, such as hunger.

So far, US military doctors and nurses are not actually treating patients. But three members of Congress—Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) believe they should be.  

"Our capable military medical and technical personnel have unique skills, resources, and experience working in similar environments to West Africa," the three wrote in a letter to President Obama. "They responded to the Cholera outbreak after the Haiti earthquake in 2010 and the aftermath of the tsunami in Indonesia. We must stop the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and protect Americans from the spread of the virus."

Pentagon officials have said that US troops will be proving logistical support and that there are no current plans for them to provide direct care. "We are not anticipating that military personnel will be treating the people," General David Rodriguez, head of the military's Africa Command, said at an October 3 press briefing. "There's no intention right now that [service members] will be interacting with patients or in areas where they would necessarily come into contact with patients."

Still, Rodriguez left open the possibility of military doctors treating patients at a later date. "That will be a decision made in the future if that ever gets to that point," he said. "But the international community has said 'Not right now. That's not what we need.'"

Ebola would certainly present a risk for any military personnel treating patients. Of the more than 4,000 people who have been infected in Liberia so far, 207 have been health care workers, according to Liberia's Ministry of Health and Social Welfare

The Marines are already warning their personnel to take precautions, even though they're not currently working with patients. "You must be aware of the risks," the Corps' top doctor says in an instructional video. "Understand what to do if you come into contact with someone suspected of having Ebola, and what to do if you become ill."

Many conservatives were outraged that Obama sent troops to help fight Ebola. Chances are, a sick service member would give new life to that debate.

Liberia Says It's Going to Need a Lot More Body Bags

| Wed Oct. 15, 2014 6:15 AM EDT

If you need any more evidence that the Liberian government is overwhelmed by the worsening Ebola outbreak (or you're still wondering why President Barack Obama committed American troops to help coordinate the relief effort), just look at the table below. The numbers, which come from Liberia's Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, show the huge gap between the supplies the Liberian government has and the supplies it needs.

As we reported last month, Liberia's entire national budget for 2013-14 was $553 million, with just $11 million allotted for health care—about what Kanye West and Kim Kardashian are believed to have spent on their house in Bel Air. The country allocated another $20 million in August specifically to fight the virus, but that still represents just a fraction of the resources needed.

The rest of the world has so far been unable to close the gap. In September, the United Nations asked member states for almost $1 billion to fight Ebola. On Friday, UN officials reported that they've only raised a quarter of that.

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