Ebola crisis not going away

Monday, December 15, 2014
By Paul Martin

By Rick Moran
December 15, 2014

The Ebola crisis in Africa has fallen off the news wires in recent weeks, but the danger to the world has only grown.

While Liberia is showing encouraging signs of getting the outbreak under control, the nation of Sierra Leone is seeing Ebola cases explode, overwhelming facilities and endangering the population.

Foreign Policy:

Nationwide, Sierra Leone has only 400 Ebola treatment beds, of which 175 are located in and near the capital city of Freetown. The World Health Organization (WHO) reckons the country needs 4,800 Ebola beds.

Mearns, who has served on the front lines of the Ebola fight in Freetown since September, cast sad eyes at the delirious men lolling in the “holding center” — the pen structure out on the street — and said that only 13 percent of suspected Ebola cases ever survive their stays at Connaught long enough to make it to the distant Kerry Town treatment center. She sighed. “I feel we’re yet to get a handle on things. It’s just steadily getting worse and worse.”

Even as world health authorities laud neighboring Liberia for bringing its Ebola transmission rate down from the catastrophic levels seen in September, Sierra Leone’s situation is spiraling out of control. The officially reported numbers of the sick and dead are not to be believed, experts say; the pace of construction of treatment centers lags far behind patients’ needs; most burials and funeral practices remain unsafe; the military has taken control of the national response; and international partners are struggling to work within the government’s control mechanism. The soaring Sierra Leone epidemic was cited by the U.N. Ebola Emergency Response Mission (UNMEER) as the primary reason it did not meet its Dec. 1 target of having 70 percent of Ebola patients in treatment and 70 percent of the dead safely buried. But instead, on Nov. 21 UNMEER reported that only 13 percent of Sierra Leone’s Ebola patients are isolated from the general population to prevent spread of the disease — an astonishingly low figure compared to the more than 90 percent isolation rates reported in Liberia and Guinea. Elhadj As Sy, secretary-general of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, predicted in late October that it would be at least four months before “control” could be achieved in Sierra Leone.

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