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UN mission to combat Ebola open HQ in Ghana

29 September 2014, 22:59

Dakar - The U.N. mission to combat Ebola opened its headquarters on Monday in Ghana, where it will coordinate international aid to assist West Africa to combat the accelerating crisis.

This outbreak has spiraled into the worst ever for Ebola, and the World Health Organization says it is has linked more than 3,000 deaths to the disease. Even that frightening figure is likely an underestimate of the true toll, said WHO. Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea have been hit hardest. Senegal and Nigeria have also been touched, but have not reported a new case in weeks.

Also read: Beds scarce, staff scarcer in Liberia's Ebola wards

In the face of desperate calls from governments and aid agencies on the ground, many promises of aid have poured in recently, and some of it from health care workers to surgical gloves to protective suits for doctors and nurses has begun to arrive. But some say the response is still too slow and haphazard.

The United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response, also known as UNMEER, is now tasked with figuring out where the greatest needs are and making sure aid gets there, said Christy Feig, director of communications for WHO, which will play a significant role in the mission.

The head of the mission, Anthony Banbury, and his team arrived Monday in Ghana's capital of Accra.

Many countries in the region have closed their borders with the worst-affected countries and suspended flights into and out of them. That has choked off routes for supplies and health care workers into Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. But Senegal officially opened a humanitarian corridor this weekend and U.N. flights can now make regular flights into the affected countries from Dakar. Ghana has also agreed to an air bridge.

The needs of the outbreak have continually outstripped projections: WHO says around 1,500 treatment beds have been built or are in the works, but that still leaves a gap of more than 2,100 beds. Between 1,000 and 2,000 international health care workers are needed, and they and local doctors and nurses will require millions of disposable protective suits to stay safe. Thousands of home hygiene kits are also being flown in to help families protect themselves at home.

Despite massive promises of aid in recent weeks, many areas have grossly inadequate resources. For instance Nimba County, one of the places Ebola has hit hardest in Liberia outside the capital, has only one ambulance, and it is often broken down, the county's medical officer, Collins Bowah, said Monday. Nimba natives who live in the capital of Monrovia have started a fundraiser to help out those back home.

- AP

Tags un dakar ebola

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