Eastwood High School graduate Ben Hemingway
started working for the U.S. government as a Marine right after he
graduated in 1993, but he
never would have imagined back then that it would lead him into the heart of the Ebola crisis in West Africa.
, who lived in the Wood County village of Pemberville for about five years, is the second in command for the federal agency that is coordinating the U.S. response to Ebola in Liberia - the country that has been hit hardest by the illness.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
, more than 2,400 people have died from Ebola in Liberia.
There have been nearly 5,000 deaths overall in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone.
"It is really an unprecedented disaster response," Mr. Hemingway
said during a phone interview with The Blade from Liberia.
"We have never had an Ebola outbreak this large before.
Ebola usually infects about 20 people in a remote community, and it's easy to contain.
But in an urban area like Monrovia it's difficult to isolate people and scale up the response."
Mr. Hemingway, 38, is now the deputy leader of the U.S. Agency for International Development's Disaster Assistance Response Team, or DART.
has been in Liberia for the past seven weeks.
said that when USAID
arrived in Liberia, there was no rule book to follow because of the unprecedented nature of this crisis.
"Every step we take we learn from it.
And at the end of this, I think the world will have an idea of how to handle this in the future," he
Mr. Hemingway is not a doctor, so he does not have direct contact with patients.
role is to meet with local government officials in Liberia and organize the U.S. teams on the ground.
They provide training to people in Liberia on how to use protective gear and help bring in new supplies to the country, such as those used to build Ebola treatment centers.
"We also have community care centers in smaller communities where people can get safe personal protective equipment and we are supporting safe burials," Mr. Hemingway
said there are 56 safe burial teams that come in and respectfully take the bodies away because the disease is often spread when family members touch their loved ones after they are deceased.
"Just imagine one of your children died from Ebola - it would be difficult to not kiss them on the cheek or touch them one more time to say good-bye," he
"We are seeing progress every day," Mr. Hemingway
"The number of deaths are going down.
The number of treatment centers are increasing.
Two or three months ago, before we had the full might of the U.S. government here supporting Liberia, that was unthinkable."
A rising star
is considered a rising star in the ranks of the USAID
, Ms. Han said.