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African Ebola outbreak like "wartime", will take 6 months to control - MSF

Source: Reuters - Fri, 15 Aug 2014 13:05 GMT
Author: Reuters
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A U.N. convoy of soldiers passes a screen displaying a message on Ebola on a street in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, August 14, 2014. REUTERS/Luc Gnago
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By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA, Aug 15 (Reuters) - It will take about six months to bring under control the Ebola epidemic, the head of Medecins Sans Frontieres said on Friday, saying the outbreak in West Africa felt like "wartime, is moving, advancing."

Joanne Liu, international president of MSF (Doctors Without Borders), speaking after a 10-day trip to West Africa, said more experts were needed on the ground and was critical of the World Health Organisation (WHO) for declaring Ebola a "public health emergency of international concern" only on Aug 8.

"We need people with a hands-on operational mindset," to combat the outbreak, Liu told a news briefing in Geneva.

Liu said she had conveyed those messages to the WHO and "that I think the wake-up call was too late in calling it a public health emergency of international concern."

"I think we have a common understanding on it now," Liu said. "Now we have to find out how that is translated into concrete action in the field ... a statement will save lives only if followed up on the ground."

On Thursday, the WHO said staff in West Africa had seen evidence that the numbers of reported cases and deaths vastly underestimate the scale of the Ebola outbreak and said it would coordinate "a massive scaling up of the international response".

The death toll from the world's worst outbreak of Ebola stood on Wednesday at 1,069 from 1,975 confirmed, probable and suspected cases. The majority were in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, while four people have died in Nigeria.

"If we don't stabilise Liberia, we will never stabilise the region. Over the next six months we should get the upper hand on the epidemic, this is my gut feeling," Liu said.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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