• UN seeks additional funds to fight Ebola

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    GENEVA: The World Bank (WB) warned Friday (Saturday in Manila) the fight to stop Ebola was being lost, as the UN pleaded for more money to combat the escalating epidemic and global travel fears mounted.

    As the death toll from the world’s worst-ever outbreak of the virus shot past 4,500, a glimmer of hope came from Senegal, which was declared Ebola-free by the World Health Organization.

    The United States, meanwhile, named an “Ebola czar” to coordinate its response, after criticism of how a Texas hospital handled a Liberian victim, with two nurses who treated him now infected.

    And a researcher at British pharmaceuticals giant GlaxoSmithKline said a vaccine may not be ready for commercial use until late 2016.

    “We are losing the battle,” WB chief Jim Yong Kim warned, blaming a lack of international solidarity in efforts to stem the epidemic.

    “Certain countries are only worried about their own borders,” he told reporters in Paris.

    As of October 14, 4,555 people have died from Ebola out of a total of 9,216 cases registered in seven countries, the WHO says.

    Most of the dead are in three West African nations at the center of the outbreak: Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

    Experts warn that the infection rate could hit 10,000 a week by early December.

    The United Nations has warned that it has received less than 40 percent of the nearly $1 billion it asked for to fight Ebola.

    So far, just $377 million has come in, and another $217 million has been pledged, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.

    “But that’s not money in the bank,” OCHA spokesman Jens Laerke told reporters in Geneva.

    And a UN trust fund for Ebola has just $100,000, despite $20 million in pledges—a situation UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said had left the world body with a “very serious problem.”

    “We need to turn pledges into action. We need more doctors, nurses, equipment, treatment centers and medical evacuation capacities,” he said.

    Despite enhanced health checks at airports in several countries, fears mounted, and Air France flight attendants called for an end to flights to Guinea, one of the three hardest-hit nations in West Africa.

    The daily Air France Paris-Conakry flight “carries a serious risk of spreading the epidemic, particularly in our country,” read a statement from the two unions of flight crew and commercial staff.

    France will on Saturday start carrying out health checks on travellers arriving from Guinea. The United States, Britain and Canada have already launched screenings at airports for passengers from Ebola-hit zones. The EU is reviewing the matter.

    In the United States, health authorities were still facing questions about how the disease—which kills around 70 percent of those it infects in West Africa—had spread at a Texas hospital.

    AFP

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