Thursday, September 04, 2014

doctors without borders condemns global response to ebola |  MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: The medical charity Medicins Sans Frontiers has issued a damning criticism of world leaders, saying the global response to the Ebola outbreak has been "lethally inadequate".

The agency, as well as the World Health Organisation and the US Centers for Disease Control, is warning the situation gets harder to control by the day.

North America Correspondent Jane Cowan reports.

JANE COWAN: Six months into the worst Ebola epidemic in the nearly 40 year history of the disease, it's a grim picture. Doctors Without Borders president Joanne Liu told a UN forum her agency is completely overwhelmed and the world is "losing the battle" against the virus. She says a global intervention involving both military and civilian personnel is needed to curb the outbreak.

JOANNE LIU: Leaders are failing to come to grips with this transnational threat. In West Africa, cases and death continue to surge. Riots are breaking out. Isolation centres are overwhelmed. Health workers on the front lines are becoming infected and are dying in shocking numbers. Others have fled in fear, leaving people without care for even the most common illnesses.

Entire health systems have crumbled.

Ebola treatment centres are reduced to places where people go to die alone, where little more than palliative care is offered. It is impossible to keep up with the sheer number of infected people pouring in our facilities.

JANE COWAN: The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Tom Frieden says the medical community knows what to do to stop the spread of Ebola, but the challenge is to put those measures in place on the massive scale that's required.

TOM FRIEDEN: There is a window of opportunity to tamp this down, but that window is closing. We need action now to scale up the response.

JANE COWAN: Latest figures show more than 1500 people have died from the virus, with more than 3,000 confirmed cases, mostly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

To make things worse, the areas are about to be hit by food shortages as neighbouring countries close land borders, restricting the flow of grain from abroad.

The World Health Organisation chief Margaret Chan says the borders need to be reopened.

MARGARET CHAN: The three hardest hit countries are literally isolated and marginalised. And this is hampering very fast response when we cannot fly in our experts to help.

JANE COWAN: The CDC says there's a small chance the virus could become more infectious through a process of genetic mutation but so far it appears to be spreading the same way it always has.