South Africa’s government, which has set up a laboratory for Ebola testing in Sierra Leone, wants private companies to help it raise 250 million rand ($22.5 million) for a 40-bed treatment center in that country.
“Government has committed 32.5 million rand,” Lucille Blumberg, head of the National Institute of Communicable Diseases, said Thursday in an interview from Johannesburg. “An important way to stop or reduce the spread of Ebola is to place infected people in treatment centers and stop their family getting infected. There simply are not enough centers.”
Sierra Leone needs as much as $1 billion to combat the virus, according to Sierra Leone’s finance minister, Kaifala Marah. The World Health Organization has recorded about 8,900 Ebola cases this year, with at least 2,950 of those in Sierra Leone, including more than 900 deaths. Neighboring Guinea and Liberia have also suffered with the epidemic. Ebola may wipe out as much as $32 billion from the economies of West Africa through 2015, the World Bank said Oct. 8.
“The outbreak is going to go on for at least another nine months, so it’s going to be expensive,” Blumberg said. “We need South African companies’ support. Every bit helps.”
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, are donating $25 million to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s nonprofit arm to help fight Ebola.
In Johannesburg, South Africa has the continent’s only level 4 laboratory, meaning it’s able to work with deadly viruses. Eleven of the country’s hospitals have been identified as response centers in case of an Ebola outbreak in Africa’s most industrialized country, Blumberg said. In 1996, South Africa had an imported case of Ebola and one health-care worker was infected before it was contained, according to Blumberg.
This year’s outbreak, which has killed more than 4,000 people in the worst spread of Ebola ever recorded, has resulted in the infection of two health care workers in Texas and one in Spain.