The WHO Achieves December 1 Ebola TargetsDecember 1, 2014 in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone
On Monday, World Health Organization (WHO) officials indicated that they have met what they call interim targets that were put in place in October in a bid to end the upward trend in new Ebola cases. While progress has been made, with some countries seeing the spread of the disease either stabilize or decline, reports of new cases in Mali and high transmission levels in some parts of Sierra Leone have shown that more work is required in order to end the worst Ebola outbreak on record.
Two months ago, the WHO launched a plan to stop the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. It aimed to isolate 70 percent of the sick and safely bury 70 percent of the victims in the three hardest hit countries – Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone – by 1 December. According to the latest figures released by the UN health agency, both Liberia and Guinea have met the targets, with Sierra Leone likely to fully achieve its goal in the coming weeks.
New figures released Monday indicate that both Liberia and Guinea have met the 1 December target for isolating 70 percent of people infected with Ebola, and have safely buried 70 percent of those who died. Sierra Leone however has not fully met the target. At a news conference in Geneva, the WHO’s Dr Bruce Aylward disclosed that Sierra Leone’s western region probably met the targets and likely will improve to the 70 percent target nationwide “in the coming weeks.” Dr Aylward further disclosed that the WHO’s plan to stop the spread of the deadly Ebola virus had shown that it was possible to quickly reduce the “yawning gap” between disease levels and the capacity to respond.
In recent weeks there have been a number of successes in the fight against Ebola. Amongst these are the fact that Ebola cases in Liberia and Guinea are either stabilizing or are on the decline. The case in Sierra Leone however is quite different as the country’s capital city Freetown and the town of Port Loko are seeing a severe surge in cases. Additionally, a new outbreak in Mali has caused concern that the deadly disease will spread into other West African countries.
When the deadline was first announced in October, Dr. Aylward acknowledged that to reach the 1 December goal would be “really pushing the system hard.” Dr Aylward, who is directing the WHO’s Ebola response, further disclosed “if we don’t do it in 60 days and we take 90 days: No. 1, a lot more people will die that shouldn’t; and No. 2, we will need that much more capacity on the ground to be able to manage the caseload.”
The Ebola outbreak was first reported in Guinea in March of this year. It has since spiralled out of control and was declared a public health emergency in August. Latest figures released by the WHO indicate that the Ebola virus has sickened more than 16,000 people, of whom 7,000 have died. Tony Banbury, the head of the UN Ebola response mission in West Africa has warned that there is still a “huge risk” that the deadly disease could spread to other parts of the world.