As Ebola Outbreak Slows, World Health Body Shifts Focus
That was the positive news from the World Health Organization in a new report which cited 99 confirmed cases in the week ending Jan. 25, 2015 – 30 in Guinea, 4 in Liberia and 65 Sierra Leone.
As the numbers decline, efforts are shifting from building clinics to finding and managing new cases, ensuring safe burials and engaging communities, the agency announced. “Unaffected countries are still at risk,” warned the WHO, “as long as cases are reported in any country.”
John Ging, operations director of the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, echoed the finding. “While remarkable progress has been made, we must not forget that it only takes one new case to start a new outbreak,” he said. Returning from a week-long visit to Ebola-affected countries, he urged the international community not to be complacent at this most difficult phase to eliminate the virus.
Four West African countries, designated “highest priority,” will be receiving U.N. support to prepare their health systems to detect and respond to Ebola. They are Ivory Coast, Guinea Bissau, Mali and Senegal.
At a recent UN-African Union meeting on Ebola, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, head of the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER), thanked government and civil partners for their support thus far in the fight against Ebola and urged global efforts to continue.
Still, he cautioned, “there is Ebola in more than 25 of the 66 districts, counties and prefectures in the region. I ask you all to maintain support until the task is completed.”
The current Ebola outbreak in West Africa is unprecedented in world history, as is the response. Over 70 countries, hundreds of organizations and tens of thousands of people have been directly involved in the fight to stop Ebola.
The epidemic has turned, he said, “and we are now beginning to see an overall decline in the number of new cases.”
Meanwhile, more positive news was released by UNICEF which announced that every child who was orphaned by Ebola in Guinea now has a place to call home — an astounding development considering these youngsters were shunned just a few months ago.
Since the Ebola outbreak struck the region, 773 children in Guinea lost both parents to the disease. As of today they’ve all been taken in by a relative, according to UNICEF.
“Since overcoming their initial fears and misconceptions about Ebola, families have been showing incredible support, providing care and protection for children whose parents have died,” Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF’s regional director for West and Central Africa, said in a statement.
According to the aid organization, an estimated 16,600 children in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone lost one or both parents or their primary caregivers to Ebola. But less than 3 percent of those children had to be placed outside family or community care.
International adoptions were put on hold in November, and the focus was placed on reuniting families.
“The first priority is to reunite children with their close relatives or other community members willing to look after them,” Najwa Mekki, a UNICEF communications officer, told a reporter. “Making permanent decisions about children’s long-term care should be kept to an absolute minimum during this period.”