Ebola “fire” needs to be put out for good, warns WHO

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The global community needs to help countries rebuild already fragile health systems, WHO says. Photo: UNMEER/Martine Perret

A radical change in the way the global community reacts to health emergencies is needed if we're to avoid another tragedy like Ebola, UN experts said Thursday.

The World Health Organization (WHO) issued the warning after saying that the Ebola epidemic "is not over" in West Africa.

The virus has killed more than 11,100 people mainly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The UN agency said that "fragile" healthcare in those countries needs significant outside investment.

Here's Daniel Johnson's report from Geneva.

World Health Organization's Dr Ruediger Krech said the global community had run to put out the Ebola "fire" but had failed to think about how to stop it happening again.

"We wait for the fire to flare up, run to put it out, but then forget to fireproof the building. We need to change that and we call on the global community to support the effort to concentrate on the healthcare system as a whole rather than on high-profile diseases, so that another tragedy like Ebola will never happen again."

At a press briefing in Geneva, WHO said it was crucial to build up weak health systems in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone where there's at best only around two doctors for every 10,000 people.

But these three west African countries have only received around half of the USD 2.3 billion funding they need.

WHO's Dr Krech insisted that in order to make sure such a crisis doesn't happen again, "we need to come up with this money".

He was speaking after the health agency announced the highest weekly number of confirmed Ebola cases for over a month, with 35 reported in Guinea and Sierra Leone.

Liberia was declared Ebola-free earlier this month after 42 days without a new case of the disease.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations

Duration: 1'15"

 

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