NEW YORK – Japan is considering sending more emergency medical personnel to deal with the Ebola crisis in West Africa, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said Monday.
Tokyo is negotiating with the World Health Organization to send “up to 23 experts, additionally,” Kishida said during a U.N. meeting in New York on universal health coverage.
Japan has extended approximately $5 million in emergency aid grants and four Japanese medics have been dispatched as members of the WHO mission, according to Kishida.
He also mentioned the possible use, under certain conditions, of an effective candidate drug to fight the spreading virus. The drug was developed by a unit of Fujifilm Holdings Corp. and Toyama Chemical Co.
Meanwhile, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf asked Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to send an emergency medical team, including Self-Defense Forces personnel, to help contain the spread of Ebola in West Africa, according to a copy of her letter to Abe obtained by Kyodo News.
In the letter dated Sept. 10, Sirleaf wrote, “The virus is spreading at an exponential rate” and “our already limited resources have been stretched to breaking point.”
“Without more direct help from your government, we will lose this battle against Ebola,” the Liberian president wrote.
As of Sept. 14, the Ebola outbreak had claimed the lives of more than 1,450 people in Liberia, accounting for more than half of the 2,630 fatalities from the disease in West Africa.
The United States has said it will dispatch about 3,000 military personnel to help deal with the crisis.
In response to the Sirleaf letter, a Foreign Ministry official in Tokyo said the ministry will “continue to consider what kinds of contributions Japan can make.”
Sirleaf said in the letter that Liberia needs 1,500 beds in treatment centers in Monrovia, the country’s capital, to isolate those infected with the highly contagious and lethal disease, but Liberia can provide only 100 beds.
Doctors Without Borders, an international medical humanitarian organization, plans to increase the number of beds to 400, but there is still a “very significant gap” from the required level, Sirleaf wrote, adding treatment units have been forced to turn back the sick.
The country is also unable to reopen basic health facilities because health workers are afraid to return to work after watching colleagues die, Sirleaf said.
Liberia is requesting deployment of Japanese disaster response medical teams composed of doctors, nurses and logistical support members to join Ebola Treatment Units, and operate at least one unit in Monrovia, she said.