UN warns of Ebola as 'unprecedented'

Updated: 2014-10-11 09:59


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UN warns of Ebola as 'unprecedented'

Anthony Banbury, Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response to Liberia, speaks to district health officials and local leaders at Foya in Lofa County, in this Oct 2, 2014 file photo. [Photo/Agencies]

UNITED NATIONS - UN officials briefed on Ebola on Friday and said the current crisis was an "unprecedented" challenge since the virus is "far ahead" of the global response.

"The world has never seen anything like it. Time is our enemy. The virus is far ahead of us," said Anthony Banbury, head of the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER), via video link from the operation's headquarters in Ghana, during an informal meeting of the Plenary on Ebola in UN headquarters.

Emphasizing the Ebola crisis has a huge impact on the affected countries Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone, Banbury noted that traditional social and cultural practices in these countries stand in the way of combating the disease because many local people still deny Ebola is real.

But he also told officials at the meeting that UNMEER is trying to figure out methods to treat the disease that are acceptable at community levels, and the team is moving resources to where it is needed most to fill gaps and support those need backstopping.

"We are late, but it is not too late to fight and win this battle," he said.

Banbury called for an immediate world action, since UNMEER, as he pointed out, could not fight the battle alone and he said more needs to be done including strengthened treatment centers and diagnostic laboratories on the ground, scaled-up financial support for aid agencies, and reliable arrangements in place to treat or evacuate workers treating the disease.

Sam Kutesa, president of the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly, also urged the international community to follow through pledges of support and to come up with innovative, yet practical solutions to contain the further spread of Ebola.

"Even from those member states who have already made contributions, more is needed," he added.

According to UN figures released on Oct 8, more than 8,000 people are believed or suspected to have been infected, and more than 3,300 have died since the Ebola outbreak was confirmed in March.

The disease first broke out in West Africa, and then few cases were confirmed in the United States as well. The virus is transmitted via direct contact with bodily fluids from an infected person. It has no cures or approved vaccines so far. Early signs of the deadly disease include fever, headaches, vomiting and diarrhea.