Ebola transmission in the three West African countries fighting the outbreak remains “persistent and widespread,” the World Health Organization said Wednesday, and the United Nations is struggling to come up with the resources to fight the epidemic. Despite significant contributions from countries including China, the United Kingdom and the U.S., health workers in affected areas need more help, the U.N. said Thursday.
"The bed space issue is huge," Tony Banbury, head of the U.N. mission charged with combating the Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, told the BBC. Of the over 4,700 beds planned for Ebola treatment centers in Monrovia, Liberia, which has had the highest rate of infections since the outbreak began in March, only about 22 percent are operational. “There are still people, villages, towns [and] areas that [are] not getting any type of help right now and we definitely don't have the response capability on the ground now from the international community," Banbury said.
Banbury said he thought the health agency could get 70 percent of Ebola patients into beds by December, a target the agency set in October. The U.N. also hoped to have 70 percent of Ebola patients who have died safely buried by that time.
There have been a total of 13,015 confirmed or suspected cases of Ebola and 4,808 deaths as of Nov. 2, according to the WHO. Health officials said new cases continue to emerge, especially in the capital cities. In Liberia, there was some evidence that new infections were on the decline on a national level; however, new case numbers remained high in certain parts of the country, the WHO said. Ebola transmissions in Guinea were “stable” at the start of November.
In Sierra Leone, the outlook was a bit bleaker. New cases continued to surge due to a lack of adequate treatment centers, according to Reuters, fueled in part by a lack of basic goods like food that has forced people to break quarantines. The country has 288 beds spread across four Ebola treatment centers, but health officials say a total of 1,864 were needed by December.