Pleiad from Senegal: International community responds to epidemic

Pleiad from Senegal is a guest column by former Pleiad editor-in-chief Nicholas Diamond. Nick is abroad in Senegal, studying public health, French and Wolof.  He’ll be reporting about health challenges and cultural experiences while in Dakar.

On Oct. 17, the World Health Organization [W.H.O.] released a statement declaring Senegal free of Ebola. The organization applauded the country for managing the disease when a 21-year-old Guinean student traveled to Dakar on Sept. 9.

President Obama has named Ron Klain, the official responsible for dispersing stimulus package funds as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act the Ebola “czar.” Klain will be responsible for coordinating the U.S. response to the Ebola outbreak.

The U.S. military continues to transport medical supplies into Dakar to stop the spread of Ebola in West Africa. The U.S. military is set to deploy between 3,200 and 4,000 troops to Liberia and Senegal.

On Oct. 24, I visited the U.S. Embassy in Dakar. The four-story building, half of which houses U.S.A.I.D. offices, is located in Les Almadies north of the Ouakam airstrip. The building is situated strategically near the Atlantic Ocean and the airport.

Enormous, gray military jets marked by the American flag land at the base militaire in Ouakam, one of Dakar’s neighborhoods. These cargo planes sometimes land in groups of three or four within an hour. The French and Senegalese militaries use the base, too.

Supplies have not been routed Léopold Sédar Senghor International Airport. The planes transport necessary equipment from the United States. Everything from tents for makeshift treatment centers, protective gear and water are delivered to Dakar.

According to a federal prosecutor working in Dakar, the U.S. Army and Marine Corps collaborate to manage the Ebola response from the Embassy. Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [C.D.C.] have traveled to Dakar to contribute.

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In Virage, the Doctors Without Borders [M.S.F.] West Africa Region office is collecting supplies, too. Kits containing protective gear were delivered from an M.S.F. warehouse in Bordeaux, France. The gear could either be saved for an outbreak in Senegal or sent abroad.

The organization does not rely on funding from governments, and it operates entirely on private donations. M.S.F.’s New York City office manages fundraising, while its Paris branch controls operations. Their épicentres monitor the epidemiology of Ebola to see where the cases are distributed around the world, especially in West Africa. That allows the group to organize a coordinated response to send medical teams.

One of M.S.F.’s health workers who returned from West Africa to New York City has tested positive for the virus. So has a two-year-old girl in Mali after she traveled from Guinea. She is being treated in Kayes near the Senegalese border.

Photos by Nick Diamond

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