By Mick Krever, CNN
The organization that has led the effort to fight Ebola on Tuesday said newly announced American aid is dearly needed, but stressed that the outbreak is far from under control.
“We’ve been calling this outbreak unprecedented for six months, and it’s only in the past few weeks that the international community seems to be beginning to mobilize.” Medicins Sans Frontiers General Director Christopher Stokes told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday.
With 530 beds across the three countries most affected – Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea – Medicins Sans Frontiers, or Doctors Without Borders, represents 80% of the Ebola-fighting capacity, Stokes said.
“We’ve been denouncing for months the international inaction – we’ve called it a coalition of inaction around Ebola.”
The number of cases is doubling every three of four weeks, he said, but those numbers tell only part of the story.
“One, you have a lot of people who are dying and who are not reporting to facilities.”
“Two, you have to imagine Liberia – the impact of Ebola is engulfing the country, especially in Monrovia. … I’ve worked in a lot of war zones, and it does remind me of this because the schools have closed, the borders have closed, most airlines no longer fly there, the ships no longer berth, and the hospitals have closed.”
“And next to this, in our own treatment center … we’re overwhelmed. And in fact we have to refuse every day, and this is what our teams find the hardest.”
The American Government announced on Tuesday that it was hugely stepping up its efforts to contain the Ebola outbreak, sending about 3,000 military personnel, setting up medical facilities and training local health workers.
“If they deploy in two weeks they have to open very quickly, because if you arrive in two weeks and it takes another two, three, four weeks to prepare the center, then that is definitely too slow.”
Health workers have faced many difficulties fighting the virus – not only because of a lack of medical facilities, but also cultural traditions that have led many to needlessly expose themselves to the virus.
Stokes said that problem has significantly diminished, but it has not lessened the pressure on health workers.
“Identifying cases is one element, but you have to bring them back into proper isolation and treatment centers.”
“The worst you can do is actually concentrate patients that have symptoms – these symptoms could be malaria – with real Ebola-infected patients.… the risk is that you will amplify and spread the disease.”
Time is of the essence.
“My feeling having come back from Liberia is if it’s still concentrated in these three countries – Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia – we have a chance to get this under control, if the deploying is quick.”
“But the longer we wait, the higher the risk that it will spread to Ivory Coast, Senegal, etc., and then I find it quite hard to see how we’re going to get on top of this.”