US: UN says flight restrictions hamper ability to battle Ebola

New York, US (PANA) - The UN on Monday cautioned against flight restrictions into and out of Ebola-affected countries in West Africa, saying such limitations were preventing the transport of critically-needed health workers and supplies, as well as contributing to economic and diplomatic isolation of the region.

UN spokesperson, Mr. Stephane Dujarric, who spoke at the daily briefing at UN headquarters in New York, said: "The current limitations on flights into and out of these countries, and the restrictions placed on aircraft originating from these countries transiting through airports in neighbouring countries, though understandable, are not warranted."

He said such an action was not "an optimal measure" for controlling the import of Ebola virus disease noting that the measure did not reflect what was known about the way in which the virus passed between people.

Mr. Dujarric said the trend of limitations on flights was having three major adverse effects on efforts to control the disease.

"Current flight limitations are hampering the movement of international experts involved in the control efforts, and also these flight restrictions hinder the capacities of aid organizations like Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) to deploy their personnel in support of the crisis response and mitigation," he said.

"The ability of programmes involved in controlling the outbreak to transport essential equipment and materials to the region is also being severely hampered," he told reporters adding that these limitations also contributed to the economic and diplomatic isolation of the affected countries and further compounded the stigmatization already experienced by their citizens.

The spokesperson also reminded the public, that "Ebola is not spread through air borne contact. In addition, transmission is unlikely to occur through water or food; a person infected with Ebola virus is not contagious until symptoms appear; Ebola is spread through direct contact with the blood or body fluids of a person who is sick with the virus."

Meanwhile, the most recently available official figures by the World Health Organisation dated 20 August, showed a total of 2,615 cases and 1,427 deaths reported in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

WHO said on Monday that an unprecedented high proportion of doctors, nurses and other health care workers had been infected in the current Ebola outbreak, prompting the African Union to try to urgently recruit more health care workers from among its members.

It said that more than 240 health care workers had developed the disease in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, and more than 120 had died.

It noted that Ebola had taken the lives of prominent doctors in Sierra Leone and Liberia, depriving these countries not only of experienced and dedicated medical care but also of inspiring national heroes.

WHO stated: "Several factors help explain the high proportion of infected medical staff. These factors include shortages of personal protective equipment or its improper use, far too few medical staff for such a large outbreak, and the compassion that causes medical staff to work in isolation wards far beyond the number of hours recommended as safe."

It estimated that in the three hardest-hit countries, only one to two doctors were available
to treat 100,000 people, and these doctors were heavily concentrated in urban areas.

In a related development, authorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) reported that 13 people had been killed in an Ebola outbreak since July in a remote village in the area of Boende, Equateur Province. However, it said, the strain of the virus was different from the one that had been ravaging West Africa. Ebola was first discovered in the DRC in 1976.

The Congolese authorities, WHO and non-governmental organizations are mobilizing against the disease.

Also, the UN Mission in the DRC, known by the acronym MONUSCO, has created an Ebola task force and is tracking and screening all its staff travelling to and from the affected countries in West Africa.

The UN System Coordinator for Ebola, Dr. David Nabarro and his team are visiting the affected countries in West Africa to support communities tackle the outbreak. They are in Guinea on Monday, after visiting Liberia and Sierra Leone, last week.
-0- PANA AA/MA 25Aug2014

25 august 2014 21:48:44

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