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US donates $5mn to help pay Liberian Ebola medics

Monrovia – The United States has pledged $5 million (four million euros) to Liberia to help compensate health workers on the frontline of the Ebola epidemic, the Liberian president’s office said Wednesday.

Rajiv Shah, the head of the US Agency for International Development, announced the contribution after meeting Tuesday with Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on the second day of a strike by the health workers over promised hazard pay.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Boerge Brende, who attended the meeting, also pledged stepped-up logistical and financial support towards the campaign to contain the spiralling Ebola epidemic, Johnson Sirleaf’s office said in a statement.

Norway will add around nine million euros to its support, bringing the total to some 39 million euros, the Norwegian foreign ministry said in a statement in Oslo.

In addition, Norway’s health ministry told AFP in Oslo that 220 people including doctors have volunteered to fight the outbreak in Sierra Leone.

Shah said the US aid was part of an overall package of $142 million dollars of “critical support”, of which $65 million would help pay for “training, community-based engagements and the construction of care centres across the country,” Johnson Sirleaf’s office said.

The health care workers union announced late Tuesday it was ending a nationwide strike launched Monday, saying they put their country’s needs first following global appeals to end their protest.

“We received calls from all over the world asking us to end the strike,” the union’s secretary general, George Williams, told AFP.

Ninety-six Liberian health workers have died so far in the epidemic and their colleagues were seeking compensation for the risk of dealing with Ebola, which spreads through contact with bodily fluids and for which there is no vaccine or widely available treatment.

“Religious, political and social leaders, Liberians in the diaspora, as well as the international community asked us to think of our sick brothers and sisters. We listened to them,” Williams said.

After the union demanded hazard pay as well as permanent contracts for some 6,000 workers, he said negotiators “promised to do something to find a solution”.

The worst Ebola outbreak on record of has claimed 4,493 lives, out of 8,997 recorded cases since the start of the year, most of them in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

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