The World Health Organization (WHO) says the 60-day goals it set itself for tackling the Ebola outbreak in West Africa have largely been met. The WHO set a target of isolating and treating 70% of patients and of safely burying 70% of victims in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea by 1 December.
The WHO’sDr Bruce Aylward said only the treatment figure in Sierra Leone had fallen below the mark. He warned much work was still needed to get to “zero cases”.
The WHO’s latest report put the death toll from the Ebola outbreak at 6,928 in the three hardest-hit West African countries.
However, DrAylward said about 1,000 deaths reported at the weekend from Liberia were “actually non-Ebola deaths… and we will be taking them off”.
DrAylward, the assistant director general in charge of Ebola response for the WHO, said the “yawning gap” between disease levels and the capacity to cope had narrowed significantly.
This was a “very very different place than 60 days ago”, he said.
“We now believe that two of the three countries – Liberia and Guinea – are currently treating more than 70% of the reported cases and in Sierra Leone they’re probably achieving that in most of the country.”
He added: “In all three countries it’s clear now that more than 70% of the Ebola deaths that we know about are buried safely. And this is because in the past 60 days, the number of safe burial teams has more than doubled.”
He said earlier reports from the WHO that suggested less success in meeting the targets had been revised after analysing the data.
DrAylward praised changes made by communities in the three countries, and the “strong national government leadership” they had shown.
When asked when the figures for both goals would reach 100%, DrAylward said he did not have a crystal ball and that while progress had been made towards reaching the target, the current achievements were “not good enough to stop Ebola”.
He warned: “Catching up and isolating cases does not mean you will automatically get to zero – it will need additional measures.”
DrAylward said there remained hotspots with rising cases, with particular concern for western areas of Sierra Leone.
But he added: “[The capacity to treat Ebola] at district level is strong and getting stronger in Sierra Leone, and that’s why I think the prognosis is actually very good.”
Earlier, the head of the UN Ebola response mission in West Africa, Tony Banbury, told the BBC there was still a “huge risk” the deadly disease could spread to other parts of the world.
Speaking in Sierra’ Leone’s capital, Freetown, MrBanbury said: “It may spread around this sub-region, or someone could get on a plane to Asia, Latin America, North America or Europe… that is why it is so important to get down to zero cases as quickly as possible”. Courtesy BBC News