The Pentagon has scaled back the number of troops it will deploy to Liberia, citing satisfactory infrastructure available within the country. Meanwhile, the UN has raised its Ebola death toll count.
Fewer US troops are to aid efforts at combating the spread of Ebola in West Africa, the Pentagon confirmed on Wednesday.
Originally, the US military had been authorized to send up to 4,000 soldiers to Liberia - one of the West African countries hardest hit by the Ebola outbreak - to assist in humanitarian efforts. However, an assessment of the conditions on the ground had caused the United States to deploy fewer personnel, Army Major General Gary Volesky told reporters at the Pentagon on Wednesday.
"There is a lot of capacity here that we didn't know about before," Volesky said, referring to the number of contractors available.
By December, roughly 3,000 troops would be in Liberia, or about 1,000 fewer than had been foreseen, he added.
The assistance from Washington and other governments was prompted not only by the largest outbreak of Ebola ever, but also by calls by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to prevent what is already an "urgent global problem" from claiming even more lives.
Death toll rises
The World Health Organization released its latest figures for the Ebola outbreak on Wednesday.
Since December, more than 5,000 have died as a result of contracting the deadly hemorrhagic virus. An estimated 14,000 people in total have fallen ill with Ebola during that time.
While Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone have been hardest hit by the epidemic, fears are rising that Mali could be the next nation to fall victim to Ebola.
Mali's Health Ministry confirmed on Wednesday that close to 80 people had been quarantined in the capital city, Bamako, after the death of a Guinean imam who had crossed the border recently.
According to local officials, the cleric - named as Goika Sekou by the news agency AFP - had been hospitalized in Bamako's Pasteur clinic, where he later died. Mourners performed a ritual washing of his body before he was returned to Guinea. Although Sekou had not been tested for Ebola, several people who had come into close contact with him, including immediate family, have since died or been tested positive for the virus.
The Pasteur clinic now stands under quarantine with at least 30 people trapped inside.
kms/mkg (AP, AFP, Reuters)