MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) — Calm returned Thursday to a slum in the Liberian capital that was sealed off in the government’s attempt to halt the spread of Ebola, a day after clashes erupted between residents and security forces, but now the tens of thousands of residents worried about getting food.
Many residents of West Point, located on a peninsula in the seaside capital, are fearful they’ll be cut off from food since many market traders are stuck behind the barricades. Food prices were already rising Wednesday, hours after Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf announced the impoverished neighborhood was being sealed off by troops and police, with no one allowed to leave or enter.
West Point neighborhood of Monrovia, Richard Kieh, told The Associated Press on Thursday that “the township was quiet last night but what we now need is food.”
Kieh said officials had promised to bring in food, but it has not yet arrived, and it was unclear whom it would be for.
Tensions between West Point residents and security forces erupted into clashes Wednesday. A local TV station showed images of three people with injuries from the unrest. A nationwide nighttime curfew, first imposed countrywide in Liberia on Wednesday night, appeared to have been put in place without major incident.
Meanwhile, officials from the World Health Organization were visiting two hospitals in Monrovia on Thursday that are treating Ebola patients. The two treatment centers are struggling to keep up with the influx of patients.
In the United States, an aid worker who was infected in Liberia has recovered and was to be discharged from a hospital.
Both Dr. Kent Brantly and another American aid worker who was also infected had received ZMapp, an experimental and unproven treatment for Ebola. Alison Geist, a spokeswoman for Samaritan’s Purse, the aid group Brantly worked for, told AP she did not know the exact time Brantly would be released from the Atlanta hospital but confirmed it would happen Thursday.
Three health workers are currently receiving the same treatment in Liberia – the first and so far only Africans to get the drug – were showing “very positive signs of recovery,” Liberia’s information ministry said earlier this week. A Spaniard who had contracted Ebola and also received the treatment died. The drug supply is now exhausted, the U.S. manufacturer has said.
Liberia is being hit especially hard by the dreaded virus that has killed more than 1,300 people in West Africa.
The current outbreak in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria is the largest ever, and officials have said that treatment centers are filling up faster than new ones can be opened or expanded. This leaves the sick packing hallways, potentially infecting more people.
Ebola is transmitted by direct contact with the bodily fluids of someone who is sick and showing symptoms. To stop its spread, experts say, the sick should be isolated and not have any contact with the healthy. Overcrowded treatment centers, a reluctance on the part of sick people to seek medical care and burial practices that involve touching the dead have helped fuel the disease’s spread.
With at least 2,473 people sickened, this outbreak now has more recorded cases than in the previous two-dozen outbreaks combined.
Several counties and districts in Sierra Leone and Liberia have been cordoned off, and there are concerns this is slowing the supply of food and other goods to these areas. The World Food Program is preparing to feed 1 million people affected by such travel restrictions.
Several airlines have also suspended flights to the affected countries, despite the World Health Organization’s advice that Ebola is unlikely to spread through air travel. Guinea’s president, Alpha Conde, met airline representatives and foreign diplomats on Wednesday to reassure them that Guinea is screening passengers leaving the country for fever and other symptoms, in line with WHO recommendations.
Associated Press writer Boubacar Diallo in Conakry, Guinea, contributed to this report.