Mego Terzian, head of the medical charity's French arm, said the
epidemic was getting worse each day and neither MSF, the World
Health Organisation (WHO) or the governments of Liberia, Sierra
Leone and Guinea had the means to contain it.
"I am extremely pessimistic if there is not a substantial
international mobilization," Terzian told Reuters in an interview in
"Organizations like the WHO and MSF will be not capable to mobilize
additional human resources, additional logistics in order to control
the epidemic," he said.
MSF is the leading private charity battling Ebola, with about 2,000
staff in the four countries - Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and
Nigeria - previously affected. Senegal became the fifth to confirm a
case of Ebola on Friday.
Apart from overloading local health systems, the epidemic is putting
security in several countries to the test. Riots broke out in
Guinea's second-largest city Nzerekore on Thursday over rumors
health workers had infected people with the virus.
Last week, Liberian police had to fire tear gas to disperse a
stone-throwing crowd trying to break an Ebola quarantine imposed on
their Monrovia neighborhood.
Terzian said that the U.N. Security Council should adopt a
resolution to pressure countries to get involved in the crisis, in
particular European nations and the United States.
"There are security risks in the region if the international
community is not involved," he said. "The United Nations Security
Council should take over the dossier and coordinate with major
governments that have the capacity to deal with a major epidemic."
Ebola could infect over 20,000 people and spread to more countries,
the WHO said on Thursday, warning an international effort costing
almost half a billion dollars is needed to overcome the outbreak.
The U.N. health agency announced a $490 million strategic plan to
fight the epidemic over the next nine months, based on a projection
that it could spread to 10 more countries beyond those already
Terzian said the U.N. should consider how to help local health
ministries to establish security, set up additional isolation
centers, mobilize workers and distribute disinfection kits and
information about the disease.
That level of coordination, especially concerning security measures,
goes beyond what the WHO normally does and Terzian did not specify
more specific steps the U.N. should take.
[to top of second column]
MOBILIZE THE WEST
"France, like other countries, can send doctors, logistical
coordinators, experienced people who know how to coordinate urgent
situations and organize transport when commercial flights are
closed," he said.
Terzian singled out Western governments in particular for not doing
enough. He said that by encouraging local governments to isolate the
problem, close borders and stop air traffic, they were causing more
harm than good.
"As long as Western countries are not infected, I have the
impression there will not be a serious mobilization," he said.
"There have been a lot of speeches and promises of financial
support, but that's it."
So far 3,069 cases and 1,552 deaths have been reported in the
outbreak but the WHO said the actual number could already be two to
four times higher.
"The situation is getting worse. We will have hundreds and thousands
more people infected who will arrive en masse at health centers," he
said. "In Guinea, eight regions have been hit. In Sierre Leone, the
situation is catastrophic and out of control and in Liberia, let's
not even talk about it."
Terzian said it was still not too late to turn the tide, but that
countries with the necessary capacity and expertise to handle such a
crisis had to act immediately.
"If we continue to close the borders, to stop the international
flights and just watch how West Africans are dying, we will have
problems," he said.
(Writing by John Irish; Editing by Tom Heneghan)
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