UN: 'Signs of Ebola declining in Liberia offer glimmer of hope'

New York, US (PANA) - The spread of Ebola in Liberia may be slowing, as demonstrated in the decline in burials and sickbed occupancy rates, as well as a reduction in lab-reported new cases in the West African country hardest hit by the virus, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) reported on Wednesday.

WHO, however, in a statement, obtained by PANA in New York, cautioned against drawing premature conclusions.

Dr. Bruce Aylward, WHO Assistant Director-General in charge of operational response, stated: "It appears the trend is real in Liberia, there may be a slowing of Ebola there."

But Dr. Aylward urged caution in interpreting the recent data saying that conclusions should not be drawn that Ebola was under control in Liberia, noting that, "while officials are seeing glimmers of hope, they need to study what is behind the trend".

He said: "Am I hopeful? I am terrified that the information will be misinterpreted. A slight decline in cases in a few days versus getting this thing closed out is a completely different ball game. It is like saying your pet tiger is under control. This is a very, very dangerous disease."

He reported the freeing up of hospital beds, the reduction of laboratory-confirmed cases and a decline in burials in Liberia, saying that, "Ebola is burning hot in parts of Sierra Leone, another country at the front-line of the outbreak, along with Guinea."

The WHO doctor said there was evidence that Ebola-affected countries can control the epidemic with safe burial, education, engagement, treatment work at a large scale, but they needed help.

Dr. Aylward said the latest Ebola statistics released by WHO on Wednesday showed the total number of cases in West Africa climbed to more than 13,000 and the death toll to more than 5,000.

He also explained the spike in the caseload was attributable to some old cases being reported late amidst the unprecedented epidemic.

Meanwhile on Wednesday, the Head of the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER), Mr. Anthony Banbury, held a joint press conference in Accra, Ghana, with US Ambassador to the United Nations, Ms. Samantha Power.

Mr. Banbury said that there has been a very significant mobilization of international personnel, resources and capabilities to work side-by-side with the governments, and that those efforts were starting to pay off.

However, he stressed that the crisis remained very serious, with continuous needs to build more beds, get more foreign medical teams in place, build more community care centres, and have more safe burial teams and more community mobilization.

"For UNMEER, from an operational perspective, the most difficult thing is that we have to put in place every part of the response, we have to put it in place everywhere and we have to do it super-fast.

"If there is a gap anywhere in the operational response, it leaves a place for this virus to continue to spread and that is a big responsibility."

Mr. Banbury said the mission was working very hard together with partners such as the US, all the wider UN family, non-governmental organizations and national governments "to make sure we put that response capability in place everywhere so that there are no gaps in the response”.

"At UNMEER, we are doing everything possible to achieve the results that have been set forth, the objectives that have been set of 70 per cent of new cases under treatment and 70 per cent of burials being done safely.

"If we can do that, we can turn this crisis around, that is our objective and we are working very hard to achieve it and I am confident that with all of the international community working with the national governments, we will make it," he stated.

On her part, Ms. Power said she was very encouraged by the steps taken in dealing with the Ebola crisis and that her main message was for the world to fill the gaps so "we can bend and end the curve".

Meanwhile, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) warned on Wednesday that Guinea was facing growing food insecurity due to the current Ebola crisis.

WFP said the Forest Guinea, the area of Guinea hardest hit by the virus, was experiencing the worst rates of food insecurity, and urged the international community to ramp up humanitarian support to avert any food shortages.
-0- PANA AA/MA 29Oct2014

29 october 2014 19:30:40

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