Health and Fitness

Number of People Affected by Ebola Tops 20,000 – UN Health Agency

UNMEER Head Anthony Banbury (right) meeting with local community and religious leaders in Kouremale, Guinea, to discuss Ebola response. Photo: UNMEER/Martine Perret

GENEVA–(ENEWSPF)–29 December 2014 – The head of the United Nations Ebola emergency response mission is set to open a treatment facility in Liberia near the Sierra Leonean border during a visit to review where the UN can do more to help, as the World Health Organization (WHO) today reported that more 20,000 people have now become infected by the virus.

According to the latest WHO update, as of 27 December, 20,081 people have been reported infected with 7,842 deaths.

Anthony Banbury, the Head the UN Mission for the Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) was to begin his two-day visit to Liberia today “as part of his final tour of the three countries most affected by the Ebola Virus Disease outbreak. In each country, he will review progress in the fight against Ebola and areas where the UN can do more to help,” UNMEER reported.

While in Liberia, Mr. Banbury‘s will travel to Grand Cape Mount County for the opening of a new 50-bed Ebola Treatment Unit in an area that has reported six confirmed cases near the Sierra Leone border this month. UNMEER has been working closely with the Governments of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone is coordinating cross-border efforts to fight Ebola.

Appointed in September, Mr. Banbury is ending his tour of duty on 3 January 2015. He will be succeeded by Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed of Mauritania.

The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) today announced that the so-called “CommCare” technology has been chosen to support the Guinean Government Response Plan against Ebola in order to obtain timely and reliable information as well as facilitate contact tracing.

UNFPA said the innovative and time-saving application will be used to locate the contacts and to transfer, in real time, the data collected by the community workers.

Until now, 158 community workers use these phones to retrieve the data collected in the field.

“Previously, contact tracing was done with data sheets. We would go from house to house with writing material. Once the information was collected, we would give the sheets to the supervisors for typing and transferring to the coordination. This process used to take two to three days,” UNFPA quoted community worker Alpha Sow Midiaou as saying.

The UNFPA office in Guinea has been organizing training sessions for community workers and supervisors throughout the territory.

Ebola response workers continued their fight against the virus throughout the holiday period with the UN World Food Programme (WFP) delivering supplies to remote areas of West Africa while the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and its partners organized social mobilizers to engage the population of a pair of quarantined and neighbouring villages in Liberia following two separate outbreaks.

And in Guinea, UNMEER reported that a field hospital donated by Israel will be established as an Ebola Treatment Unit.

UNMEER, meanwhile, said West Africa’s fight to contain Ebola has hampered the campaign against malaria, which is a fully preventable and treatable disease. For example in Guéckédou, Guinea, doctors have had to stop pricking fingers to do blood tests for malaria.

Guinea’s 40 per cent drop in reported malaria cases this year is likely because people are too scared to go to health facilities and are not getting treated for malaria, UNMEER quoted a malaria expert as saying.

“Nets for Life Africa, a New York-based charity that provides insecticide-treated mosquito nets, said some 15,000 Guineans died from malaria last year,” according to UNMEER.