S. Korean aid workers in West Africa exposed to Ebola

October 21, 2014

SEOUL (Yonhap) — South Korean aid workers in West Africa have been exposed to the deadly Ebola virus due to a lack of protective wear and medical equipment, a lawmaker claimed Tuesday.

A total of 102 South Korean aid workers have been living in West African countries, including Senegal and Cameroon, without proper protection from the epidemic, Rep. Kim Jae-won of the ruling Saenuri Party said, citing data from the government’s official development assistance body, the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA).

“KOICA and other workers dispatched to areas close to the three Ebola-hit West African countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea are exposed to infection due to the lack of protective clothing and other necessary items,” he said.

The workers are feared to have a high risk of contracting the virus as their work requires them to have frequent contact with the locals.

In August, the government said it would send protective wear and other equipment to its diplomatic missions in West Africa, but no such material has been sent so far, Kim claimed.

“The government should swiftly draw up measures against the infectious disease for our workers in Ebola-hit countries and their neighboring nations,” he said.

South Korea plans to send an advance team of government officials to the affected countries early next month in an effort to assess the situation there before dispatching its medical workers.

Seoul has pledged US$5.6 million in aid toward global efforts to contain the spread of the virus, which is estimated to have killed more than 4,500 people.