UN: Stopping Ebola is our number one priority - UN envoy

New York, US (PANA) - The Head of the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER),
Mr. Anthony Banbury, has said stopping the Ebola epidemic as fast as possible and getting
ahead of the virus is the mission's number one priority.

Speaking with reporters on Wednesday in New York, Mr. Banbury expressed deep concern that the true numbers of people affected by the virus and dying of it are higher than the numbers being reported.

According to the latest World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics, there are more than 13,000 reported Ebola cases in eight countries since the outbreak began, with about 5,000 reported deaths.

The UN envoy, however, said the number one priority is to stop Ebola as fast as possible.

''It is all about stopping the disease, reducing transmissions, ending the crisis, protecting the
communities, avoiding future deaths.

"If the world is going to effectively tackle the Ebola crisis, we cannot just be chasing it, we
have to get ahead of the virus," he said.

The UNMEER boss noted that the response needed was more of what the international community can provide, citing the expertise required on myriad fronts, ranging from communications, medical, construction to engineering needs, as well as resource intensive needs such as treatment and care facilities, and the staff, supplies, logistics support for them.

According to him: "UNMEER is working very, very hard to bring greater capability on the ground so that we can bring this crisis to an end as quickly as possible."

Mr. Banbury also said it was "heart-breaking" when survivors of the disease are not welcomed back to their community when they’re fully healthy, saying: "So we have a long, hard fight ahead of us, but we’re headed in the right direction."

Meanwhile, the World Food Programme (WFP) has reported that it has reached its target
of 1.3 million people in the three Ebola affected countries – Guinea, Sierra Leone and

WFP said it is now reviewing its requirements to broaden its response to address the
food security and nutrition challenges of Ebola-affected communities based on the
latest available assessments.

On its part, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said in Sierra Leone, the first nine community care centres have now been completed, and welcomed them as "critical elements in taking the fight against Ebola into the heart of communities, where the agency believes the battle against the virus would be won".

UNICEF also reported that in Sierra Leone, its social mobilisation work has put out 200,000 posters, 400,000 fact sheets and sent some 1.5 million text messages.

"UNICEF's focus is to support communities to protect themselves and to be able to access basic healthcare if any of their members contract Ebola," said Dr. Peter Salama, UNICEF's Global Emergency Coordinator for Ebola.

In a related development, WHO said that standard tests used in mobile and other laboratories need 2 to 6 hours to test for Ebola and cost around US$100, but these requirements are difficult to meet in resource-constrained West African settings, thus severely limiting testing capacity.

"Efforts to contain the Ebola outbreaks in West Africa are currently hampered by cumbersome, slow, and complex diagnostic tests that imposed a number of additional logistical challenges, including requirements for a high level of laboratory biosafety and staff expertise in using sophisticated machines," WHO spokesperson Fadela Chaib said.
-0- PANA AA/SEG 12Nov2014

12 november 2014 08:12:49

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