“Six months into the worst Ebola epidemic in history, the world is losing the battle to contain it,” “Leaders are failing to come to grips with this transnational threat.”
World leaders are failing to address the worst ever Ebola epidemic, and states with biological-disaster response capacity, including civilian and military medical capability, must immediately dispatch assets and personnel to West Africa, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) announced today in a special briefing at the United Nations organized by the Office of the UN Secretary General and the World Health Organization (WHO).
In a speech delivered to UN member states, MSF International President Dr. Joanne Liu denounced the lack of deployment of resources, which has to DATErelied on overstretched ministries of health and private nongovernmental organizations to tackle the exceptionally large outbreak. Despite repeated calls by MSF for a massive mobilization on the ground, the international response has been lethally inadequate. Transmission rates have reached levels never before reported in past Ebola outbreaks, and the further spread of the virus will not be prevented without a massive deployment of specialized medical units to bolster epidemic control efforts in affected countries.
MSF medical teams have been battling the outbreak in West Africa since March. Nongovernmental groups and the United Nations cannot alone implement the WHO Global Roadmap to fight the ever growing and unpredictable epidemic.
“Six months into the worst Ebola epidemic in history, the world is losing the battle to contain it,” said Dr. Liu. “Leaders are failing to come to grips with this transnational threat. The WHO announcement on August 8 that epidemic constituted a ‘public health emergency of international concern’ has not led to decisive action, and states have essentially joined a global coalition of inaction,” she said.
Many countries possess biological threat response mechanisms. They can deploy trained civilian or military medical teams in a matter of days, in an organized fashion, and with a chain of command to assure high standards of safety and efficiency to support the affected countries. MSF insists, however, that any military assets and personnel deployed to the region should not be used for quarantine, containment, or crowd control measures. Forced quarantines have only bred fear and unrest, rather than stem the virus.
“Funding announcements and the deployment of a few experts do not suffice,” said Dr. Liu. “States with the required capacity have a political and humanitarian responsibility to come forward and offer a desperately needed, concrete response to the disaster unfolding in front of the world’s eyes. Rather than limit their response to the potential arrival of an infected patient in their countries, they should take the unique opportunity to actually save lives where immediately needed, in West Africa.”
In the immediate term, field hospitals with isolation wards must be scaled up, trained personnel must be dispatched, mobile laboratories must be deployed to improve diagnostics, air bridges must be established to move personnel and material to and within West Africa, and a regional network of field hospitals must be established to treat medical personnel with suspected or actual infections.
In Monrovia, Liberia, for example, new Ebola management centers with adequate isolation facilities and qualified staff are urgently needed. The queue of patients continues to increase in front of MSF’s ever growing ELWA 3 center, which now contains 160 beds. It is estimated that 800 additional beds are needed in Monrovia alone. The MSF team is overwhelmed and cannot offer more than Paliative care.