Ebola disease fight “on track” but not “beaten”

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Ibrahim Suri Kamara, himself suffering fever, joint and muscle pain and fever tries to cool his feverish 6 year old daughter. His wife and eldest daughter have already died. WHO/C: Black

A key figure in the fight against Ebola has said that the UN's strategy is largely on course in all three of the worst affected African countries but that doesn't mean the disease is beaten.

Bruce Aylward, who's assistant director of the World Health Organization (WHO), also warned that people have started to become complacent about keeping the disease at bay.

Much has changed for the better since the UN announced its plan to get a handle on Ebola 60 days ago in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, according to Mr Aylward:

"We're in a very, very different place than we were 60 days ago with that escalating disease, the yawning and increasing gap between response capacity and disease.  We've also seen that many communities are changing the way they live; we often talk about the beds and burials that have helped slow down the outbreak, but there's a third 'B' and that's the behaviour, it's been the behaviour changes in places like Liberia that have been as important."  (26″)

The UN's so-called "70/70/60" scheme involves providing safe burials for 70 per cent of Ebola victims and putting 70 per cent of suspected cases into isolation.

Safe burials are now happening in all three countries thanks to a doubling of burial teams to around 200, Mr Aylward said.

Treatment levels are also "more than 70 per cent" in Liberia and Guinea,while Sierra Leone was on course to hit the same target "in coming weeks" after encountering a regional spike in cases.

Despite the progress made, Mr Aylward said that the geographic spread of the disease was of "real concern", for instance in Guinea.

People were also not washing their hands or using chlorine buckets to disinfect their feet, he said.

The UN expert warned that although vaccines in development were "really important", it was more important to do the contact tracing to get Ebola cases to zero.

Mr Aylward also warned that the funding gap for the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER), meant that there was only a "threadbare" approach to combating the disease.

Some communities had only one ambulance and not two, he said, while others had a dial-up modem which hampered their response.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations

Duration: 2’04″


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