October 2014 – AFRICA – Schools have shut down, elections have been postponed, mining and logging companies have withdrawn, and farmers have abandoned their fields. The Ebola virus ravaging West Africa has renewed the risk of political instability in a region barely recovering from civil war, United Nations officials said Tuesday, hours after the World Health Organization reported that new cases could reach 10,000 a week by December — 10 times the current rate. The head of the new Ebola Emergency Response Mission, Anthony Banbury, told the Security Council that none of the three most heavily affected countries — Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea — is adequately prepared. Only 4,300 treatment beds will be available by Dec. 1, according to current projections, and even those would not have an adequate number of staff members. The acceleration of new cases, if not curbed, could easily overwhelm them. Mr. Banbury painted a picture of substantial need. Only 50 safe-burial teams are on the ground, he said, but 500 are required. They need protective gear and about a thousand vehicles. So far, Mr. Banbury said, the mission has delivered 69 vehicles. “We are fighting for people who are alive and healthy today, but will become infected by Ebola and die if we do not put in place the necessary emergency response,” he said, speaking by a video communication link from Accra, Ghana, where the mission was established in late September.
He went on to say that there is a small window of time before the outbreak expands to levels where it cannot be controlled. “We either stop Ebola now,” he said, “or we face an entirely unprecedented situation for which we do not have a plan.” Mr. Banbury’s remarks to the Security Council came as a United Nations aid worker died at a hospital in Germany. The victim, identified as a 56-year-old Sudanese laboratory technician at the United Nations mission in Liberia, had been responsible for the disposal of medical waste. He fell ill on Oct. 6. The Security Council in September passed a resolution that declared Ebola a threat to international peace and security. On Tuesday, it heard sobering alarms about Ebola’s widening impact on the region. Tayé-Brook Zerihoun, the assistant secretary general for political affairs, said the security situation had already been “significantly impacted since the outbreak of the disease,” with fatal attacks on health workers in Guinea, local riots fueled by what he called mistrust and misinformation about Ebola, and threats of strikes by health workers in Liberia and gravediggers in Sierra Leone. The Liberian ambassador to the United Nations, Marjon V. Kamara, said that her country’s economy urgently needed restoration and that her compatriots needed to get back to work. “The more they remain idle, the more the prospects for trouble,” she said. –NY Times