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UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, is greeted by dancers upon arrival at the Roberts international airport in Monrovia, Liberia, Friday, Dec. 19, 2014.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Saturday urged countries affected by the Ebola virus to avoid discriminating against healthcare workers fighting to end the disease.

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic.

According to the latest World Health Organization figures, 7,373 people have died of Ebola in the three worst-affected countries, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

Ban's tour began in Liberia and Sierra Leone on Friday and will end later on Saturday in Ghana, site of the U.N. Ebola response mission (UNMEER), after a visit to Mali.

"There should be no discrimination for those who have been working or helping with Ebola. Those people are giving all of themselves," Ban told U.N. officials in Conakry.

His comments follow a meeting on Friday in which Rebecca Johnson, a Sierra Leonean nurse who caught the virus, recounted how she fell gravely ill, recovered and is now back treating Ebola patients.

Ban said he was moved by Johnson's story that she still faced a stigma as a survivor.

UNMEER is a short-term mission and Ban said he hoped its work would be done in a year from its formation last September.

UNMEER set an initial Dec. 1 target of getting 70 percent of Ebola patients in treatment and 70 percent of bodies safely buried, but Ban said the m

"My intention is not to keep UNMEER longer than one year. If that isn't the case, people will regard it as a failure," Ban said.

The number of new cases is slowing in Guinea and Liberia but Sierra Leone launched a campaign around the capital this week to bring a rapid increase in transmissions there under control.