The death toll from the worst ever outbreak of Ebola has risen to 1,145, the World Health Organization said on Friday, as 76 new deaths were reported in the two days to August 13 in the four West African nations affected by the epidemic.
The UN health agency said that a total of 152 confirmed, probable and suspected new cases of the deadly hemorrhagic fever were reported in the two day period in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, bringing the total for the outbreak to 2,127.
It will take about six months to bring under control the Ebola epidemic, the head of Medecins Sans Frontieres said on Friday, saying the outbreak in West Africa felt like "wartime, is moving, advancing."
Sierra Leonese government burial team members wearing protective clothing stand next to the coffin of Sierra Leone's second senior physician to die of Ebola, at the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) facility in Kailahun. (AFP Photo)
Joanne Liu, international president of MSF (Doctors Without Borders), speaking after a 10-day trip to West Africa, said more experts were needed on the ground and was critical of the World Health Organisation (WHO) for declaring Ebola a "public health emergency of international concern" only on August 8.
"We need people with a hands-on operational mindset," to combat the outbreak, Liu told a news briefing in Geneva.
Liu said she had conveyed those messages to the WHO and "that I think the wake-up call was too late in calling it a public health emergency of international concern."
"I think we have a common understanding on it now," Liu said. "Now we have to find out how that is translated into concrete action in the field ... a statement will save lives only if followed up on the ground."
On Thursday, the WHO said staff in West Africa had seen evidence that the numbers of reported cases and deaths vastly underestimate the scale of the Ebola outbreak and said it would coordinate "a massive scaling up of the international response".
The death toll from the world's worst outbreak of Ebola stood on Wednesday at 1,069 from 1,975 confirmed, probable and suspected cases. The majority were in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, while four people have died in Nigeria.
"If we don't stabilise Liberia, we will never stabilise the region. Over the next six months we should get the upper hand on the epidemic, this is my gut feeling," Liu said.
UN to feed up to one million people hit by Ebola
The UN is to fly in food aid for up to a million people affected by the Ebola outbreak wreaking havoc in west Africa, the World Food Programme (WFP) said on Friday.
With states of emergency and severe restrictions on movement imposed in the three worst-hit countries, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the UN agency is bringing in its own aircraft to make sure food gets through to quarantined areas.
A member of Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF), holds a book recording details of the deaths of Ebola victims, at the MSF facility in Kailahun. (AFP Photo)
"The restrictions on movement in the most affected areas threatens food security," WFP spokesperson Fabienne Pompey said. "Commerce is affected, people cannot get to their fields, and prices rise at the markets so the poorest have trouble feeding themselves."
The WFP is already feeding several thousand people in the worst affected areas, including the families of victims who have been quarantined, orphans and old people and hunters hit by the ban on the sale of bushmeat.
With several commercial carriers suspending flights to the region because of the epidemic, she said the agency is starting up a new humanitarian service on Saturday with an aircraft based in the Guinean capital Conakry, which will link the capitals of the three countries.
She said two helicopters will also be brought in to deliver aid to the most isolated areas.
(With inputs from AFP)