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"Looming civil disorder" in Africa under Ebola threat, says expert

03 October 2014, 09:20

Nairobi - As the world sees few signs of the worst-ever Ebola outbreak in West Africa being brought under control, a Kenyan expert warns there is a "looming civil disorder" in Africa if Ebola continues to spread.

According to the latest World Health Organization (WHO) figures, the death toll from the outbreak on record reached 3,338 people out of 7,178 cases in West Africa as of Sept. 28.

Speaking to Xinhua in a recent interview, Nicholas Muraguri, director of medical services at Kenya's Ministry of Health, said the global community should worry about the potential impact of Ebola on economies, security and livelihoods of the affected West African countries.

"The devastating impact of Ebola not only to affected countries but across Africa has been debated in many forums," said Muraguri, adding the current epidemic is historical in terms of fatalities and geographic spread.

The WHO's update on Wednesday said the total number of new cases had fallen for a second week, but warned against reading any good news into the figures as they were almost certainly under- reported.

"Transmission remains persistent and widespread in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, with strong evidence of increasing case incidence in several districts," the WHO's statement said.

Liberia's Information Minister Lewis Brown reportedly warned that the country may slip back to civil war along with neighboring Sierra Leone if the Ebola epidemic ravaging West Africa is allowed to continue to spread.

Brown said the lack of urgency in the international response risked allowing a breakdown of societies in the region.

"If this continues the cost of living will go to the roof. You have an agitated population," said the minister.

In his view, Muraguri said based on their fragile situation after prolonged conflicts, affected countries could drift into a bleak future, as "it is a fact that Ebola has torn asunder the social structures in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea."

"When communities are displaced, can hardly access basic services and are in a panicky mood due to Ebola, the possibility of civil war is real," Muraguri said.

He said Ebola has triggered panic everywhere in Africa, and the narrative of a continent on the rise can no longer hold water.

"We should worry about the consequences of Ebola in a region that has borne the brunt of conflicts," said Muraguri.

Muraguri suggested that international community and affected countries reorganize the preventive measures by focusing on community awareness, zoning off the states where Ebola transmitting primates and bats reside.

Also read: Kenya rules out Ebola case following scare at airport

The international community should speed up deployment of proven treatment regime like Zmapp (the experimental treatment for use with individuals infected with Ebola virus) to save the infected, he said.

The WHO's Wednesday report says both Guinea and Sierra Leone reported cases in previously uninfected districts bordering Ivory Coast.

In Liberia, there remained "compelling evidence obtained from responders and laboratory staff in the country that there is widespread under-reporting of new cases, and that the situation in Liberia, and in Monrovia in particular, continues to deteriorate," says the report.

International intervention has gained progress with the arrival of the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) in West Africa, the setting-up of two U.S. Navy mobile laboratories in Liberia and the start of samples testing by a Chinese team in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

 - Xinhua

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