Efforts to curb the deadly Ebola epidemic that swept across four West African states are being undermined by a lack of leadership and emergency management skills, the international head of Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) said yesterday.
In an interview, Joanne Liu also said the world’s worst ever outbreak of Ebola has caused widespread panic and the collapse of health care systems particularly in Liberia, where pregnant women have lost babies while seeking a safe place to deliver.
She said Western nations must dispatch more experts in tropical medicine, especially field workers who know how to help communities prevent the often lethal virus from spreading.
And the World Health Organisation (WHO) must fulfill its leading role in coordinating the international response to the epidemic, the president of the global, Swiss-based medical charity told Reuters by
“I think they are in the process of bringing more people from the WHO but the reality is that this epidemic will be not be contained unless there are more players,” Liu said.
“We are missing everything right now. We are missing a strong leadership centrally, with core nation capacity and disease emergency management skills. It’s not happening.”
The infectious disease has killed 1,350 people among 2,473 cases in four countries – Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, according to the United Nations health agency.
MSF (Doctors Without Borders) has deployed 1,000 of its own staff in the stricken region, running centres that currently have 300 beds, according to Liu who spent 10 days in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone earlier this month.
“All of our centres are overcrowded right now. We have an Ebola centre in Lofa county in Foya (Liberia) which is close to the epicentre. It was meant to be a centre with a capacity of 20 beds. We have more than 125 patients right now,” Liu said.
“The same thing with our centre in Monrovia, which we opened only last weekend, with 125 beds and now it’s already filled. We’re entertaining the idea of increasing the capacity, if not doubling it,” she said.