Red Cross seeks scaled up drive vs Ebola

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GENEVA: The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) on Sunday urged the international community to immediately scale up efforts to tackle the Ebola outbreak in West African countries.

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As of July 27, the cumulative number of cases attributed to Ebola virus disease in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria stood at 1,323, including 729 deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

IFRC said only concerted action from the international community will enable the containment of this deadly virus.

However, there is prevalent fear not only within the affected communities, but also within the international community to respond to the situation, which may hinder the rapid control the outbreak.

“The Red Cross Red Crescent is extremely worried that the situation is spiralling out of control. The response capacity and resources of the government and humanitarian aid agencies in the affected countries are already stretched beyond the limit, and the virus continues to spread, making this the deadliest outbreak of Ebola ever,” Panu Saaristo, the IFRC’s emergency health coordinator said in a statement.

He stressed the spread of the virus can only be halted with scaled-up support and coordinated action by governments, corporations, donors and aid organizations.

“We cannot continue to turn a blind eye to what is happening in western Africa. Inaction will cause the further spread of this deadly virus across the borders of this remote region, making true our fears,” he added.

As the Ebola virus disease spreads out of control across some of the poorest countries in West Africa, the IFRC is intensifying its response to the emergency by sending an emergency response unit to Kenema, one of the worst affected areas in Sierra Leone.

On Friday, WHO and the West African nations affected by the Ebola virus disease announced a joint 100 million U.S. dollars response plan to tackle the spread of the deadly disease.

The Director-General of WHO and presidents of west African nations hit by the Ebola virus disease outbreak envisaged to launch a new joint US$ 100 million response plan as part of an intensified international, regional and national campaign to bring the outbreak under control.

“The scale of the Ebola outbreak, and the persistent threat it poses, requires WHO and Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to take the response to a new level, and this will require increased resources, in-country medical expertise, regional preparedness and coordination,” Dr. Margaret Chan said. “The countries have identified what they need, and WHO is reaching out to the international community to drive the response plan forward.”

The Ebola Virus Disease Outbreak Response Plan in West Africa identifies the need for several hundred more personnel to be deployed in affected countries to supplement overstretched treatment facilities.

Hundreds of international aid workers, as well as 120-plus WHO staff, are already supporting national and regional response efforts. But more are urgently required. Of greatest need are clinical doctors and nurses, epidemiologists, social mobilization experts, logisticians and data managers. The plan also outlines the need to increase preparedness systems in neighboring nations and strengthen global capacities.

Key elements of the new plan, which draws on lessons learnt from other outbreaks, include strategies to stop transmission of the Ebola virus disease in the affected countries through scaling up effective, evidence-based outbreak control measures; and prevent the spread of Ebola virus disease to the neighboring at-risk countries through strengthening epidemic preparedness and response measures.

WHO and affected and neighboring countries will renew efforts to mobilize communities and strengthen communication so that people know how to avoid infection and what to do if they fear they may have come into contact with the virus.

Improving prevention, detecting and reporting suspected cases, referring people infected with the disease for medical care, as well as psychosocial support, are key. The plan also emphasizes the importance of surveillance, particularly in border areas, of risk assessments and of laboratory-based diagnostic testing of suspected cases. Also highlighted is the need to improve ways to protect health workers, a scarce resource in all three countries, from infection.

Finally, reinforcing coordination of the overall health response is critical. In particular, this includes strengthening capacities of the WHO-run Sub-regional Outbreak Coordination Center, which was opened this month in Conakry, Guinea, to consolidate and streamline support to West African countries by all major partners and assist in resource mobilization.

PNA/Xinhua

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