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New cases pose serious challenge to ending Ebola

- forecasts UN envoy

January 12, 2014  By Mohamed Massaquoi

Dr. David Nabarro, United Nations Special Envoy on Ebola

Dr. David Nabarro, United Nations Special Envoy on Ebola

The United Nations Special Envoy on Ebola has said in Freetown that if new cases of the Ebola viral disease in Sierra Leone do not lessen within weeks, it would pose a serious challenge to bringing the outbreak to an end.

Dr. David Nabarro, addressing journalists at the National Ebola Response Centre (NERC) headquarters in Freetown last Friday, said his responsibility as UN envoy is to mobilize resources, including people and materials, in the fight against the disease.

He said that last year there were very generous resources in terms of finance, people and materials, and that the United Nations mobilized the sum of US$1.1 billion as part of global response and efforts in eradicating the pandemic, noting that partners must ensure they have sufficient qualify staff working in each district to tackle the disease.

“In Liberia the incidents of people with Ebola disease is dropping now to around 20 a week; that compares to 200 not too long ago. Here in Sierra Leone, we are still running with a 120 to 150 a week. Two things happened in Liberian early on when the disease started. Widely spread increase of people understanding as to how to prevent Ebola. There was also tremendous stand up of burial capacity,” Dr. Nabarro said.

He added: “Here in Sierra Leone safe and dignified burial is happening only now; we should expect the incident level starting to fall in Sierra Leone in a few weeks but if it doesn’t, then something very serious will be involved. So we hope a reduction in the cases.”

Meanwhile, newly appointed Special Representative of the Secretary General and head of the United Nations Mission on Ebola Emergency Response, Ismail Ould Cheik, commended the government of Sierra Leone for fighting the disease, noting that there is clear political leadership and willingness to see the end of the disease.

He said he had met and engaged President Ernest Bai Koroma and other stakeholders in the fight against Ebola on his visit to the country following his appointment.

“Sierra Leone has done remarkably well compared to four weeks ago, but I think the leadership President Koroma and other local leaders have shown is very remarkable. This puts Sierra Leone at a better point before now,” said the UN envoy. “I am sure Sierra Leone can make it. We however need a lot of efforts in social mobilization, contact tracing, and safe burial among other efforts. I am certainly happy with the efforts made at districts level in rapid response in the fight against the disease.”