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US envoy sees 'first tangible signs' Ebola will be beaten

30 October 2014, 19:31

Brussels - Ebola-hit west Africa is showing "the first tangible signs" that the deadly virus will be beaten, the US envoy to the UN said Thursday after touring the region.

Samantha Power said the international community must still do much more to fight a months-long epidemic that has claimed around 5,000 lives, almost all of them in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

"We stand at a historic juncture. We face the greatest public health crisis ever," Power told a gathering in Brussels sponsored by the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

Though there were "still alarming gaps in our collective response," foreign aid and a stronger local response were beginning to make a difference, Power said.

Also read: US nurse bikes away, despite Ebola quarantine

She said Muslim clerics in Guinea, for example, were encouraging people to bury Ebola victims safely to help check the spread of the disease.

Power added that a US Navy Ebola testing lab in Liberia was giving those who might be infected their results within hours rather than days, reducing the chance of the virus spreading.

And she learned how a clinic run by Medecins Sans Frontieres in the Liberian capital Monrovia now had enough beds so that it no longer had to turn away patients.

The survival rate of infected people in a community in Guinea had gone up because the local authorities were making sure people received treatment faster, she said.

The international contributions that have been made, along with local efforts, have "begun to save lives and offer the first tangible signs that this virus can and will be beaten," Power said.

She had travelled to the region not expecting to find much cause for optimism but came away with a message of "profound hope."

Power nonetheless said she noticed fear, ignorance and lack of basic supplies like chlorine disinfectant and buckets were still hampering prevention and treatment.

There were still not enough doctors, nurses, plastic gloves, bleach and thermometres, she said.

"The international community is not yet doing enough to stem the tide of the epidemic," she said.

The US envoy hailed the work of non-government organisations "but they are maxed out. They cannot fill the remaining gaps without more support."

Power said that fear was the greatest obstacle to fighting Ebola, both in the countries worst hit by the disease and the western countries needing to respond to it.

"Ebola has no greater friend than fear. The virus thrives on it," she said.



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