News / Health

Relief Group: Ebola 'Moving Faster' Than It Can Handle

Medical staff working with Medecins sans Frontieres bring food to patients isolated at a treatment center in Kailahun, Sierra Leone, July 20, 2014.
Medical staff working with Medecins sans Frontieres bring food to patients isolated at a treatment center in Kailahun, Sierra Leone, July 20, 2014.
VOA News

The head of an international medical aid group says the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is moving faster that relief workers can respond to it and may take six months to bring under control

Speaking Friday in Geneva after a 10-day trip to the affected region, Joanne Liu, international president of Doctors Without Borders (MFS), said more health experts are needed to treat patients.

The region "had the feeling that it is like wartime in terms of ... general fear," she said of her visit, adding that the outbreak's magnitude has strained health care centers.

"We have a total collapse of infrastructure in some places," she said, adding that 80 health care workers have died from Ebola and 170 have been infected.

“In terms of stability, I think that in Guinea, because they have been dealing with this for five months, has more measures being put in place," she said. "They have more capacity as well as a greater understanding of what is going on."

Liberia targeted

While infections in both Sierra Leone and Liberia continue to grow at a steady rate, she said the situation in Liberia is the most dangerous and in dire need of urgent stabilization.

"If we do not stabilize Liberia, we will never stabilize the whole region,” she said.

Liu also criticized the World Health Organization (WHO) for waiting until Aug. 8 to label Ebola a "public health emergency of international concern," saying the organization needed to show stronger leadership.

"Now we have to find out how that [statement] is translated to concrete action in the field," Liu said. "A statement will save lives only if followed up on the ground."

Combatting the outbreak, which Liu said will take about six months to bring under control, requires "people with a hands-on operational mindset."

Also Friday, international Red Cross chief Elhadj As Sy echoed some of Liu's concerns, saying the outbreak had stretched capacities of the group's relief partners "to the maximum."

"We need to be vigilant because we have seen in the past that as soon as you start getting complacent and see that cases are going down, then you slow down your response [and risk a] relapse," he said.

Outbreak 'vastly' underestimated

On Thursday, the WHO warned the magnitude of the Ebola outbreak had been "vastly" underestimated.

The U.N. agency said 1,069 people have died of Ebola this year in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.

The total number of cases is estimated at just under 2,000, but some public health experts, including Liu, say many cases are going unreported as patients resist hospitals and isolation wards, preferring to entrust their care to family members instead.

In a statement, the U.N. health agency said it was concerned those numbers do not reflect the true gravity of the situation. Liberia and Sierra Leone, the two hardest hit countries so far, have reported at least 182 new cases in the past week.

Public health authorities in affected countries say they need more resources as they scramble to stop the spread of the disease and isolate those already infected.

Treatment centers

In Monrovia, Liberia, MSF is building its largest Ebola treatment center yet, which will have 120 beds. MSF also runs a treatment unit in the northern border town of Foya, in Lofa County.

Lofa and Montserrado counties are among the hardest hit in Liberia, whose health ministry is rolling out a new strategy to manage the high volume of suspected cases in those districts.

Assistant Health Minister Tolbert Nyensuah says health workers will go to the patients, instead of the other way around. 

“Making sure that that patient cannot infect other household members and providing some level of care at the household level," he said.

In August, both Liberia and Sierra Leone enacted emergency rule and quarantined the most affected districts. Security forces have set up roadblocks and shut borders. 

There is no known cure or vaccine for Ebola, though a WHO panel this week backed plans to give some patients unproven drugs to fight the virus.

A limited supply of an untested, U.S.-produced drug, known as ZMapp, arrived Wednesday in Liberia, where it will be given to two doctors.

Officials there must now decide who will else receive the remaining doses of the drug, supplies of which could take months to refill.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama stressed the U.S. is committed to working with West African countries to help contain the outbreak.

The White House said Obama underscored his commitment on separate phone calls Thursday to Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma.

VOA West Africa Correspondent Anne Look contributed to this report, along with Lisa Schlein in Geneva, Adam Bailes in Freetown, Prince Collins in Monrovia and Patrick Jackema in Kenema, Sierra Leone. Some information for this report comes from Reuters.

You May Like

South Korea Divided on Response to North’s Cyber Attack

In past five years, officials in Seoul have accused Pyongyang of hacking into banks, government websites, causing chaos and inflicting millions of dollars in damages More

Video Calm Amid Fear in Daily Life in S. Sudan’s Bentiu

Residents have been trying to regain some sense of normalcy, but planning for the future remains uncertain as fear of attacks looms More

2015 Could Be Watershed for Syria Conflict

Republican control of US Senate in January could lead to more aggressive policy against IS militants in Syria - and against regime of Bashar al-Assad More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: anonymous
August 16, 2014 1:08 PM
Gukhurahundi in Zimbabwe outstripped Ebola with the loss of approximately 20,000 lives and the world did nothing, something people seem to have completely forgotten about.


by: Blamah B. Sirleaf from: Liberia
August 15, 2014 12:40 PM
Firstly i will like to extend my thanks and appreciation to our international partner for their continuous support in curing this deadly virus, also hoping on the almighty God to save our continent form this Ebola virus.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Jane Monheit Christmas Speciali
X
December 22, 2014 8:15 PM
Chanteuse Jane Monheit sings the holiday classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and explains why it’s her favorite song of the season.
Video

Video Jane Monheit Christmas Special

Chanteuse Jane Monheit sings the holiday classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and explains why it’s her favorite song of the season.
Video

Video Trade Talks Could Heat Up in 2015

With boosting trade a top priority for the Obama administration, 2015 may be the year that an agreement is finally reached on the Trans Pacific Partnership. But the trade deal, which is intended to boost trade between 12 Pacific countries, faces opposition as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Ugandan Doctors Aid Victims of Sudan's Civil War

In Sudan's state of South Kordofan, the number of amputees as result of civil war is in the thousands, but few have access to sufficient medical help. Adam Bailes recently visited the area and says a small team of Ugandan doctors has been providing remote help, producing new prosthetic limbs for those in need.
Video

Video Calm Amid Fear in Daily Life in S. Sudan’s Town of Bentiu

Six months ago, Bentiu was a ghost town. The capital of northern Unity State, near South Sudan’s important oil fields, had changed hands several times in fighting between government forces and rebels. Calm returned in November and since then, residents of Bentiu have been trying to regain some sense of normalcy. Bentiu’s market has reopened there are plans to start school again. But fears of new attacks hang heavy, as Benno Muchler reports from Bentiu.
Video

Video US Business Groups Press for Greater Access to Cuba

President Barack Obama's decision to do all he can to ease restrictions on U.S. trade, travel and financial activities with Cuba has drawn criticism from some conservatives and Republicans. People who bring tourists to the island and farmers who want to sell more food to Cuba, however, think they can do a lot more business with Cuba. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school

All About America

AppleAndroid