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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

US Secret Service Head: White House Security Lapse 'Unacceptable'

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after a recent intrusion at the White House: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus 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.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid