Staffers, Diplomats Call for Capitol Hill to Act on Ebola Crisis
Capitol Hill observed a campus-wide moment of silence at 8:46 a.m. Thursday to honor those killed in the 9/11 terror attacks.
Six hours later, a group of 25 that included diplomats from Liberia, Cameroon and staffers from the Congressional African Staff Association gathered on the East Front to bow their heads for two moments of silence. One was observed for the victims of the attacks 13 years ago; the second was for victims of the Ebola epidemic.
Senate Chaplain Barry Black and Bishop Darlingston Johnson, chairman of the African Immigrant Caucus, led the group in prayer for healing, intervention and a strengthened global response. Black asked for wisdom for the health care experts “who seek to turn tragedy into triumph,” and relief for the more than 4,200 people that the World Health Organization estimates have been infected in the epidemic.
“I’m originally from Liberia, so it touches me very personally,” Johnson told CQ Roll Call. The church he pastors there has lost 13 people, two pastors and a pastor’s wife to the disease. “It’s very important to us that whatever resources are available be mobilized to fight this thing quickly.”
Omar Arouna, Benin’s ambassador to the United States, said his small West African nation is especially worried about the crisis in neighboring Nigeria. Benin is a “transitive country,” he explained in an interview, so it is important the international response is focused on stopping the spread of the disease.
Despite the heat of the day, many participants slipped on white T-shirts over their business suits that were passed out by organizers from Believe in Africa in hopes of drawing attention to the cause.
“There has got to be a unified response to this challenge that knows no boundaries and is moving so quickly,” said Adotei Akwei, managing director of government relations for Amnesty International.
Congress has begun to take action.
A panel of the House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing on combating the threat on Aug. 7.
On Sept. 16, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will hear from Kent Brantly, the doctor who contracted Ebola while doing missionary work in Liberia, along with officials from the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention and the National Institutes of Health during a joint hearing.
In the continuing resolution introduced on Tuesday, House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., included $88 million that was requested by the White House to bring drugs and personnel into West African countries.
“We’re hoping that whatever we do here can help push the process forward a little more quickly,” Johnson said, “move from just talking about it to some action.”