Ebola outbreak: West Africans live in a climate of fear


West Africans live in a climate of fear similar to that in a war zone due an Ebola outbreak that will take at least six months to control, medical aid organization Medecins Sans Frontieres said Friday.

EbolaAid workers could not keep pace with the continuously worsening situation, MSF president Joanne Liu told journalists in Geneva.

Liu, who had returned from a 10-day visit to the region, demanded a new strategy to tackle the outbreak.

People in the four Ebola-affected countries – Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria – lived in a climate of fear, according to Liu.

Many people lacked trust in their public health systems, while infrastructure had collapsed, said Liu.

MSF did not have enough staff to trace all people who have come into contact with patients infected with Ebola, said Liu.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is also warning that the region’s Ebola outbreak “continues to escalate.”

The WHO has said that a “massive scaling up of the international response” is necessary to get the outbreak under control.

By August 13, 1,975 cases and 1,069 deaths were reported from Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.

In Nigeria, the death toll from the Ebola virus rose to four on Friday, as President Goodluck Jonathan reportedly fired thousands of doctors who have been taking part in weeks of nation-wide strikes.

Jonathan ordered the dismissal of around 16,000 doctors in an internal memo to the Health Ministry, according to newspaper Premium Times.

Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu instructed that “letters of termination” be issued immediately to all affected resident doctors in hospitals.

The move allows the Health Ministry to “make internal arrangements to get alternative doctors to cater for patients,” said ministry spokesman Isiaka Yusuf.

Doctors and nurses in public hospitals across the nation of 169 million people have taken part in work stoppages since July 1 and are refusing to return to work until their working conditions and salaries improve.

The strike is severely hampering efforts to curb the epidemic in Africa’s most populous state.

Also on Friday, the ministry announced the death of nurse Justina Obi Echelonu, who died in quarantine at the First Consultant Hospital in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, as well as a new confirmed Ebola case.

Echelonu’s death raises the number of people killed by Ebola to four in Nigeria, local newspaper Vanguard reported.

In all, 11 Ebola cases have been confirmed so far, while 169 people are under surveillance.

In Liberia, the Justice Ministry has released 100 pre-trial detainees with minor offenses to protect them from Ebola in overcrowded prisons, local newspaper Front Page Africa reports.

Ghana, meanwhile, has issued a travel alert to Ebola-affected countries and has placed a ban on holding international conferences for the next three months.

The government is also procuring protective gear for 10,000 people, after 37 suspected Ebola cases were reported – although all tests came back negative.

“Our strategy is to prevent the disease from spreading to Ghana,” said Communications Minister Edward Omane Boamah.

Further afield, the International Olympic Committee said Liberian athletes were no longer participating in the Youth Olympics in Nanjing due to the Ebola outbreak, Chinese news agency Xinhua reported.

Teams from Sierra Leone and Nigeria also refused to participate in the games, saying the special health check-ups ordered for athletes from Ebola-affected countries were discriminating.

The current outbreak is caused by the most lethal strain in the family of Ebola viruses. Ebola causes massive haemorrhages and has a fatality rate of up to 90 per cent. It is transmitted through blood and other body fluids.

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