Geneva , May 20 – The number of new Ebola cases has quadrupled over the last week in Guinea and Sierra Leone, with a total of 35 infections reported after weeks of reports of the virus” decline and a sense that it may finally be close to burning itself out, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Just over a week after Liberia, the other West African nation hit hard in the past year by the Ebola outbreak, was declared free of the deadly hemorrhagic fever. Bruce Aylward, the WHO’s special representative for Ebola, announced the rise in cases while meeting with local health officials.
For the week leading up to May 17, a majority of the new infections occurred in Guinea, and there were only nine cases reported in the countries during the previous week.
During the meeting on Tuesday, Aylward stressed that continued infections further prove that Ebola “will not go quietly.”
“It will take an extraordinary effort to finish the job,” Aylward told a briefing attended by health ministers. “With the start of the rainy season today, the doubling of effort will be that much more difficult, that much more important.”
The deadline of the upcoming rainy season has been looming in conversation for months, both among locals and health experts, as rainy conditions could hinder response efforts, making it particularly challenging for health workers to travel and transport goods over muddy roads in order to reach communities in need.
The news that cases are up in Guinea and Sierra Leone comes on the heels of WHO’s 68th annual World Health Assembly. During the event, Director-General Margaret Chan announced major reforms and funding changes developed in direct response to challenges the agency faced during the Ebola outbreak, which began in December 2013 in Guinea before spreading to neighboring countries.
“The world was ill-prepared to respond to an outbreak that was so widespread, so severe, so sustained, and so complex,” Chan said. “WHO was overwhelmed, as were all other responders. The demands on WHO were more than 10 times greater than ever experienced in the almost 70-year history of this organization.”
Chan announced a set of five changes to the agency, most notably the creation of a single program to respond to health emergencies, which she said was specifically designed for speed, flexibility, and rapid impact. The program will coordinate a global health emergency workforce and is expected to report directly to Chan, but in theory will run independently of some of the political mechanisms of the WHO.
“The Ebola outbreak shook this organization to its core,” Chan said. “This was a defining moment for the work of WHO and a historic political moment for world leaders to give WHO new relevance and empower it to lead in global health.”
The director-general, who has found herself in the crossfire of criticism against the agency for failing to mount a sufficient and timely response, also said she would be establishing a $100 million contingency fund. The money, which would come from voluntary contributions by member states, would aim to ensure that the necessary resources are available for WHO to respond immediately. Chan said all of the changes are set to be implemented by the end of 2015.
“I do not ever again want to see this organization faced with a situation it is not prepared, staffed, funded, or administratively set up to manage,” she said.
Source: Prensa Latina