UN: 'Intense response needed for western Sierra Leone, Guinea-Mali border'

New York, US (PANA)   - The UN Special Envoy on Ebola, Dr. David Nabarro, said on Tuesday that the UN is currently focusing attention on bringing down the high levels of transmission in western Sierra Leone and ensuring that cases do not cross the border from Guinea into neighbouring Mali.

Dr. Nabarro, who spoke via video link to the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, DC, said: "The national response, with support from the international community is working, and real progress is being made."

He told the council members debating the response to the Ebola outbreak that he believed the needed capacity should be in place in the three most affected countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone by the end of January next year.

He identified two areas of particular concern in the current battle to eradicate the Ebola in West Africa, with the first area of concern being western Sierra Leone, in particular, the capital Freetown, and Port Loko, where there are high levels of transmission and "a much more intense response is needed".

The UN envoy also explained the logistical difficulty of staffing the Ebola treatment units with 300 beds that required some 300 people.

He said the staff needed to change shifts every three to four hours because of the heat of the protective clothing, pointing out that each changeover was a dangerous moment, as was each interaction with patients, particularly with needles.

Dr. Nabarro said that some of the most experienced Ebola responders in the world were working in that area, together with UNMEER’s "Western Area Surge team", the Sierra Leonean government, the World Health Organization (WHO) and partners to ensure there were enough beds and burial teams.

The second concern, he noted, was the northern part of the interior of Guinea, known as Guinea Forestiere, adding "UNMEER is also working very closely with Mali to ensure cases do not cross the border and if they do, that they could be dealt with very quickly."

He said that he had been working closely on that with the President of Mali, as well as with the UN peacekeepers stationed there to curb the Ebola outbreak and its spread.

On a positive note, Dr. Nabarro drew attention to the N’Zerekore Treatment Centre in Guinea headed by a doctor from Niger.

He described it as "a truly extraordinary" example of international, African and local cooperation, built with money from the European Union and constructed in 25 days of 24-hour shifts by the UN World Food Programme (WFP) with Red Cross volunteers and others there.

The envoy also stressed that, "communities are at the heart of the Ebola response and you could not do this without local community involvement".

Dr. Nabarro said he was very pleased with the response from the UN family, as well as the global response, stating that, African countries, small and large, had rallied their resources to fight the epidemic that had affected 17,800 people and left 6,331 dead.

On the kinds of people being sought in the response, he said that, "they are those with clinical skills to treat patients, those with epidemiological skills to follow the disease and its progression, those with anthropological skills to understand community challenges and those with managerial skills to ensure proper management of different parts of the response".

Meanwhile, in a message to a special meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations
(ASEAN) on Ebola preparedness in Bangkok, Thailand, the head of the UN Mission for Ebola
Emergency Response (UNMEER), Anthony Banbury, drew attention to the need for more
international responders as part of the district-by-district strategy.

"We need logisticians, information management people, we need epidemiologists. In this war
that we are fighting now, our most valuable soldiers are epidemiologists, people who can
understand this disease, who can help us hunt it down, who can work in the villages and
identify any new outbreak so that we can quickly respond and bring it under control,"
Mr. Banbury said.

He said what was lacking in the response were trained epidemiologists to work in the field,
and he urged ASEAN countries to send health care works to fight Ebola in West Africa.
-0- PANA AA/MA 9Dec2014

09 december 2014 22:12:28

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