UN: WHO turns to foreign medical teams to combat Ebola virus

New York, US (PANA) - The World Health Organization (WHO) says it will put together medical
teams from outside the Ebola-affected countries next week in Geneva to see how they can help in the last phases of the fight to bring the number of cases down to zero.

Dr. Ian Norton, who heads WHO’s medical team in West Africa tackling Ebola, in a statement on Saturday, said that during the technical meeting from 17 to 19 February, options would be discussed on how foreign medical teams could get involved with other pillars of Ebola-response, including surveillance and social mobilization.

"Many of the teams were ready to stay for several months in order to safely reactivate the
essential healthcare services of the three affected countries," Dr. Norton said, noting that a specific section of the meeting would look at improved safety and improved patient care.

He described foreign medical teams as clinical providers, comprising doctors and nurses
coming from outside of their countries of origin into a country with a health emergency.

He disclosed that there were currently 58 such medical teams working at 66 Ebola treatment
centres in the infected areas in West Africa, and they were provided by some 40 different
organizations dealing with the Ebola response.

Dr. Norton also said the foreign medical teams had been part of a "fire-fighting stage of the
response", when the lack of clinical capacity was hampering the rest of the response.

He, however, noted that the focus now was on the public health stage, with a view to bringing
the number of cases down to zero.

The latest WHO statistics show that nearly 23,000 people have been affected by Ebola with
more than 9,200 deaths.

WHO also reported that despite improvements in case finding and management, burial
practices and community engagement, the decline in case incidence has stalled.

Meanwhile, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) said that more than US$56 million is urgently
needed to provide vital reproductive, maternal and newborn health services in Guinea,
Liberia and Sierra Leone.

This amount, according to the UN agency, will cover the initial six months of the UNFPA-led
Mano River Midwifery initiative – a new Ebola-response effort that would increase the number of health workers to ensure that women and girls of childbearing age stay healthy and safe despite the crisis.

UNFPA said the funds will also cover the cost of contact-tracing to identify all potential contacts of Ebola cases and help prevent infections.

"Our response is urgent as we have to save lives and stop the spread of Ebola now," UNFPA Executive Director, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, said in a statement, obtained by PANA in New York.

Osotimehin stated: "We must also strengthen health systems and build resilience for the future. By expanding midwifery, we will increase the number of health workers and ensure safe delivery for mothers and newborns."

In another development, UN Development Program (UNDP) Administrator, Ms. Helen Clark,  arrived in Monrovia, Liberia, as part of her visit to West Africa focusing on Ebola-recovery, saying: "Ebola is very hard to beat, but it is being beaten in Liberia."

A UN statement said Ms. Clark met with a number community groups in Conakry, Guinea, where she stressed the vital importance of community advocacy in stopping the outbreak.

The UNDP chief mission will conclude with a visit to Sierra Leone early next week.

UNDP is working with the national authorities and local, regional and international partners, including the African Development Bank, the European Union and the World Bank, on an Ebola Recovery Assessment, and in support of national strategies, as part of its mandate to the lead the UN system in the Ebola-related recovery efforts.
-0- PANA AA/VAO 14Feb2015

14 february 2015 17:20:16

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