5,000 Ebola Health Care Workers Needed In West Africa: World Health Organization

Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (Tika) members deliver medical treatment and raise awareness of Ebola outbreak in Kolda, southern Senegal on October 24, 2014. (Photo: Getty Images)

The Associated Press

KAMPALA, Uganda — Authorities are having trouble figuring out how many more people are getting Ebola in Liberia and Sierra Leone and where the hot spots are in those countries, harming efforts to get control of the raging, deadly outbreak, the U.N.’s top Ebola official in West Africa said Tuesday.

“The challenge is good information, because information helps tell us where the disease is, how it’s spreading and where we need to target our resources,” Anthony Banbury told The Associated Press by phone from the Ghanaian capital of Accra, where the U.N. Mission for Ebola Emergency Response, or UNMEER, is based.

Health experts say the key to stopping Ebola is breaking the chain of transmission by tracing and isolating those who have had contact with Ebola patients or victims. Health care workers can’t do that if they don’t know where new cases are emerging.

“And unfortunately, we don’t have good data from a lot of areas. We don’t know exactly what is happening,” said Banbury, the chief of UNMEER.

Banbury, who visited the three most affected countries last week, said it was “heartbreaking” to see families torn apart by Ebola as they struggle to care for sick loves ones while also hoping to avoid infection. He said he is hoping for a new approach in Liberia as the U.N. and its partners work to improve the capacity of communities to safely bury victims.

Over the past week, Banbury met with the presidents of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, where the vast majority of the more than 10,000 Ebola cases have occurred, the U.N. said.

Meanwhile, the president of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, said the three countries need at least 5,000 more health workers to effectively fight the epidemic.

Kim said Tuesday that he is worried about where those health workers can be found given the widespread fear of Ebola. Quarantining health workers returning to their home countries — as some U.S. states are doing — could also hurt recruitment efforts. The World Bank president spoke alongside U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and African Union Chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where the AU is headquartered.

As more countries close their borders with or severely restrict travel from the affected countries, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf pleaded Tuesday with the world to not turn its back on those suffering.

“We’d just like the international community to continue to see this as a global threat, that stigmatization, exclusion, restriction is not the appropriate response to this,” she said.

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