Ebola: Canada can do more, Liberian ambassador says

Liberia's ambassador to Canada is asking the Canadian government to step up its response to the Ebola outbreak by sending more health-care workers, medical supplies, as well as the experimental drug to West Africa.

Liberian ambassador to Canada marches in Hamilton to support Ebola relief

Dozens of Hamiltonians, many of them from the city's Liberian community, organized a march to raise funds to fight the Ebola crisis in West Africa on Saturday. 1:33

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Liberia's ambassador to Canada is asking the Canadian government to step up its response to the Ebola outbreak by sending more health-care workers, medical supplies, as well as the experimental drug to West Africa. 

Liberian ambassador to Canada Jeremiah Sulunteh, left, dons a fundraising T-shirt at the Ebola relief march in Hamilton on Saturday. (Sunnie Huang/CBC)

"We appreciate what the Government of Canada has done, but we will be asking them to do a little more than that," Ambassador Jeremiah Sulunteh told the crowd at a fundraising march for the global Ebola relief effort in Hamilton Saturday morning.

"We know they have the resources. We know they have the technology. We know they have the capability, the man power."

More specifically, Canada can help by sending doctors and nurses to Liberia to train local health-care workers, Sulunteh said. Donations of ambulances, hospital beds and medical supplies are also needed. 

Sulunteh's visit to Hamilton comes a day after Canada's Health Minister Rona Ambrose announced another $30 million in aid to the United Nations mission to fight the Ebola outbreak. 

The latest round of funding is on top of the $35 million Canada has previously pledged. However, only about $5 million of the $35 million has been spent so far. 

Suluteh said the renewed commitment is "very much appreciated," but "a country such as Canada can do more than that." 

'Use it on us'

Another way Canada can help is to send more doses of the experimental drug ZMapp currently in Winnipeg to West Africa, Suluteh added. 

"What are they waiting for? It's about time to utilize that," he said. 

The Canadian government plans to ship 800 to 1,000 vials of the drug to the WHO in Geneva on Monday, CBC News reported. Once there, clinical trials would begin in late October or early November to determine if it is safe to be used in humans. 

The drug, developed through a collaboration between the Public Health Agency of Canada and U.S researchers, had never been tested on humans before it was given to two American health-care workers who were infected with the viral haemorrhagic fever in Liberia. They both survived. 

Doctors, however, have said there is no way to know whether ZMapp helped with the recovery or patients recovered on their own. So far, about 45 per cent of people infected in the West African outbreak have recovered without treatment.

When asked about the uncertainty of the effects of the drug, Suluteh said the Liberian people have no other alternatives. 

"Even if it would be the guinea pig, use it on us," he said. 

Initial skepticism 

Jallah Arku, who came to Hamilton from Liberia two months ago, described the situation back home as "getting out of hand."

Liberians were initially skeptical about the disease and passed it off as a rumour, Arku said. But when the reality of the lethal nature of the virus sank in, panic started to spread. 

Arku recalled an incident when he was on a bus and man who appeared to be drunk started vomiting. 

"Everybody thought it was Ebola. Even the bus driver had parked the bus and everyone started jumping off the bus because of the fear. That's how terrible it was at the time," he told CBC News at the march. 

He is now eagerly awaiting for the arrival of his wife and kids, who are expected to come to Canada at the end of October. 

"I worry about them every day," he said. "And not just my wife and kids, but Liberia as a whole."

Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea are the countries hit hardest by the outbreak.Liberia has the highest rate of infections and deaths, and the virus has killed more than 2,300 people in the nation.

Solunteh joined dozens of Hamiltonian, many of them from the local Liberian community, and marched from St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton to the YMCA. 

The march is organized the local Liberian community association in partnership with Key-Action Network, a non-profit organization that provides settlement and integration support for new immigrants. It is followed by a fundraising dinner Saturday night. 

Organizers say they hope to raise $20,000 worth of donations toward purchasing medical supplies and send them to Liberia in December. 


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