MARTHA’S VINEYARD (AFP) – US President Barack Obama called the presidents of Liberia and Sierra Leone Thursday to discuss the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the White House said.
The calls to Presidents Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone came as the US State Department ordered families of its diplomats in Sierra Leone to leave the country to avoid exposure to the disease.
“In his conversations with both leaders, the president underscored the commitment of the United States to work with Liberia, Sierra Leone, and other international partners to contain the outbreak and expressed his condolences for the lives lost,” the White House said.
As of Wednesday, according to the World Health Organization, 1,069 people had died of the disease since the start of the year when it spread from Guinea to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, the last and most populous West African country to be affected.
In announcing the departure of families of US embassy staff in Sierra Leone, the State Department said it was acting “out of an abundance of caution.”
State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf cited “a lack of options for routine health care services at major medical facilities due to the Ebola outbreak.”
Harf said the State Department was also “reconfiguring” its staff at the embassy in Freetown to “be more responsive” to the crisis ravaging the country.
“We remain deeply committed to supporting Sierra Leone and regional and international efforts to strengthen the capacity of the country’s health care infrastructure and system — specifically, the capacity to contain and control the transmission of the Ebola virus and deliver health care,” she said.
On August 7, the United States ordered families of embassy staff out of Liberia due to the disease