By Emma Farge
DAKAR (Reuters) - Sierra Leone appealed to the United States on Wednesday to send military aid to help it battle Ebola as it falls behind its West African neighbours Guinea and Liberia in the fight against the virus.
The worst recorded Ebola outbreak has killed at least 5,689 people, the World Health Organization said on Wednesday, as the virus has overwhelmed African countries with weak infrastructure and healthcare systems.
While the outbreak appears to be coming under control in Liberia, thanks partly to a health operation run by U.S. troops, infection rates have accelerated in Sierra Leone.
The rate of transmission is also beginning to slow in neighbouring Guinea, the first country to report an Ebola case, although case numbers are rising in Mali.
"I believe now that the cases are reducing in Liberia, he (President Barack Obama) will ask the Department of Defense and the State Department also to turn attention to helping the efforts in Sierra Leone," said Alpha Kanu, Sierra Leone's minister of information and communication.
He also appealed to the United States to help Guinea, and urged Britain to provide more assistance to Sierra Leone.
Guinea's President Alpha Condé said on Wednesday he is ready to authorize anyone who refuses to let doctors check Ebola suspects for signs of the disease.
Guinea's President Alpha Condé said on Wednesday he is ready to authorize the use of force if necessary if anyone refuses to let doctors check Ebola suspects for signs of the disease.
"We have an agenda, which is to get rid of this disease as quickly as possible," he told a news conference.
Britain, the former colonial power, has sent military personnel to establish treatment centres in Sierra Leone, as well as three helicopters and a 100-bed naval hospital.
The U.S. response in Liberia involves 3,000 troops.
"The difference between Liberia and Sierra Leone is that the American response was faster and stronger and more robust in the beginning, using technology that was easier to put up than what the British are doing in Sierra Leone," he told reporters.
The deputy commanding general of U.S. Operation United Assistance said this week the country had the capacity to help other Ebola-hit countries but denied there were immediate plans to do so.
Sierra Leone's President Ernest Bai Koroma has introduced emergency Ebola measures. He said it might be necessary to call another three-day lockdown to remove the sick from communities and transfer them to newly built treatment centres.
The European Union announced in Monrovia on Wednesday it would disburse 22 million euros of budget support to help Liberia scale up its efforts to eradicate the virus.
(Additional reporting by Saliou Samb in Conakry and James Giahyue in Monrovia; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg/Janet Lawrence/Susan Fenton)