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Prospects for Early End of Ebola Epidemic Dim

  • Victor Beattie

FILE - A Doctors Without Borders health worker takes off his protective gear under the surveillance of a colleague at a treatment facility for Ebola victims in Monrovia.

FILE - A Doctors Without Borders health worker takes off his protective gear under the surveillance of a colleague at a treatment facility for Ebola victims in Monrovia.

The World Health Organization has warned that as many as 10,000 new cases a week of Ebola could develop in the three hardest-hit West African countries by early December. President Obama Tuesday said the world is not doing enough to fight the deadly virus, which a U.N. official said has far outpaced efforts to contain it:

WHO assistant Director-General Bruce Aylward told a Geneva news conference Tuesday the Ebola death toll exceeds 4400 and the number of confirmed cases is more than 8900 since March. And, Aylward said, the number of Ebola cases could reach 5,000 to 10,000 per week in the three hardest-hit West African countries, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia by December 1.

The WHO official said that while there are encouraging signs, including fewer cases in some of the worst affected areas, more burial teams and a ramped up international response, the ambitious goal set to contain the deadly virus, called "70-70-60," remains elusive.

"Seventy-percent safe burials, 70 percent of cases being managed and cared for property and within 60 days of our start date, which for UNMEER (UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response) is first of October. So, our goal is to have that in place by 60 days, which would be the first of December," said Aylward, describing the 70-70-60 plan.

Aylward pointed out troubling signs, including new areas of West Africa where cases of the deadly virus are being reported and an increasing number of Ebola cases in the capital cities of the three most affected countries.

The U.N. Security Council Tuesday received a sobering assessment of the battle from the head of the UNMEER mission in Ghana, Anthony Banbury, who said that despite heroic efforts by the health care workers on the front lines, he remains “deeply worried” it is not nearly enough to stop Ebola.

"Ebola got a head start on us. It is far ahead of us. It is running faster than us and it is winning the race. We cannot let Ebola win. If Ebola wins, we the people of the United Nations lose so very much," said Banbury.

Banbury said that if the 70-70-60 targets are not met, many more people will die, adding that the world will "face an entirely unprecedented situation for which we do not have a plan."

Sierra Leone’s UN ambassador, Vandi Chidi Minah, told the Council his country requires a sense of hope.

"A sense that the United Nations and the community of nations that it represents will not abandon the fight, will not fail us and will not relent until the scourge of Ebola has been removed," said Minah.

President Obama warned Tuesday the world "is not doing enough" to fight Ebola.

"There are a number of countries that have the capacity that have not yet stepped up. Those that have stepped up, all of us, are going to have to do more because, unless we contain this at the source, this is going to continue to pose a threat to individual countries at a time when there is no place that’s more than a couple of air flights away, and the transmission of this disease obviously directly threatens all our populations," said Obama.

The president said Ebola has the capacity to destabilize countries politically and economically.

Obama has been reaching out to other world leaders in recent days about the disease, including U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, French President Francois Hollande and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. On Wednesday, he was to hold a videoconference with the British, French, German and Italian leaders to discuss, among other issues, Ebola.

The United States is increasing its assistance to West Africa, pledging Tuesday another $142 million to contain the disease. Rajiv Shah, head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, made the announcement as he toured a new 300-bed treatment center in the Liberian capital, Monrovia, with President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and Norway’s Foreign Minister, Borge Brende.

"It’s clear [with] the new commitments made today by the United States, Norway and so many other partners that, together, we really believe we can overcome Ebola,” said Shah.

The United States has already committed more than $400 million in aid to contain Ebola in West Africa.

Meanwhile, about 100 additional U.S. Army personnel arrived in Liberia over the weekend as part of ongoing efforts to contain the virus. There are now 565 U.S. military personnel on the ground with several thousand projected in coming weeks to construct 17 treatment facilities and set up mobile testing laboratories.

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