Near the hillside shelter where dozens of men and women died of Ebola, a row of green U.S. military tents sit atop a vast expanse of imported gravel. The generators hum; chlorinated water churns in brand-new containers; surveillance cameras send a live feed to a large-screen television.As much as I would like to reduce government waste, I'm OK with this response. While it would have been better for Liberia if we had been able to mobilize earlier, it is still better to be there late and maybe prevent it from going global.
There’s only one thing missing from this state-of-the-art Ebola treatment center: Ebola patients.
The U.S. military sent about 3,000 troops to West Africa to build centers like this one in recent months. They were intended as a crucial safeguard against an epidemic that flared in unpredictable, deadly waves. But as the outbreak fades in Liberia, it has become clear that the disease had already drastically subsided before the first American centers were completed. Several of the U.S.-built units haven’t seen a single patient infected with Ebola.
It now appears that the alarming epidemiological predictions that in large part prompted the U.S. aid effort here were far too bleak. Although future flare-ups of the disease are possible, the near-empty Ebola centers tell the story of an aggressive American military and civilian response that occurred too late to help the bulk of the more than 8,300 Liberians who became infected. Last week, even as international aid organizations built yet more Ebola centers, there was an average of less than one new case reported in Liberia per day.
“If they had been built when we needed them, it wouldn’t have been too much,” said Moses Massaquoi, the Liberian government’s chairman for Ebola case management. “But they were too late.”
As Winston Churchill is reported to have commented "You can always count on Americans to do the right thing - after they've tried everything else."