The death toll from Ebola is surging in West Africa, and officials in Liberia are warning that the entire country could collapse from the devastation. Speaking at a recent meeting of the United Nations Security Council, Liberia's Minister of National Defense, Brownie Samukai, warned that his country's very existence is on the line as a result of the outbreak, which shows no immediate signs of waning.
Samukai emphasized that Ebola is "spreading like wildfire, devouring everything in its path," a forewarning of much worse things to come. Liberia's finance minister, Amara Konneh, expressed similar sentiments at a recent press conference, announcing that his country has been dragged into a "war with an enemy we don't see."
"Liberia is facing a serious threat to its national existence," Samukai told the U.N. Security Council. "The deadly Ebola virus has caused a disruption of the normal functioning of our state."
Ebola killing national economy, says Konneh
Economically speaking, Liberia is seeing major declines in food production, mining, services and other sectors as a result of the Ebola outbreak. Konneh says productivity is also plummeting in many critical sectors, resulting in decreased revenue performance and increased expenditure demand.
In order to continue fighting the outbreak, the government has had to impose emergency budget cuts to preserve needed resources. Healthcare workers trained in dealing with Ebola are already in short supply after many of them reportedly contracted the illness and died, and about $30 million is needed to fulfill the government's national emergency response efforts, an amount that constitutes 84 percent of the nation's entire budget.
"Though it is difficult, we can all agree that the result will be worth [it]," stated Konneh. "[B]ecause we as a government must ensure that the highest priority in government spending remains the fight against the Ebola virus which has claimed the lives of the ordinary people, and is posing the greatest threat to the survival of the people."
WHO rushes to open 120-bed facility for Ebola patients
With most of the country's health facilities completely overwhelmed with patients amidst the crisis, the World Health Organization (WHO) is working closely with the Liberian government to open a 120-bed treatment facility as quickly as possible. A delegation recently toured the facility, which will be the second-largest available for Ebola patients.
"People are coming here every day, thinking the center is ready because of the information that is out there," stated Stephen Chea, Deputy Chief of Security at the new facility, recently renamed as the Oniyama Specialist Hospital.
"There are a lot of things that we've been doing here. It is just that the government wants to use this place so urgently, but the work that needs to be done here could take another 30 days."
The lack of available beds throughout Liberia has exacerbated the Ebola crisis, driving many infected patients back to their hometowns to infect others. So far, the Liberian government has spent the equivalent of $5 million in U.S. currency to fight the epidemic.
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