Ebola crisis: No impact from pledges of help, MSF says

Ebola information poster in Monrovia, Liberia - 16 October Image copyright EPA
Image caption Liberia has had the largest number of deaths from the virus

International pledges of deployments and aid for Africa's Ebola-hit regions have not yet had any impact on the epidemic, a major medical charity says.

Christopher Stokes of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said the disease was still out of control.

He said it was "ridiculous" that volunteers working for his charity were bearing the brunt of care in the worst-affected countries.

The disease has killed about 4,500 people so far, mostly in West Africa.

MSF runs about 700 out of the 1,000 beds available in treatment facilities Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

The BBC's Mark Doyle, at the UN Ebola logistics base in Ghana, says it is generally agreed that at least three times that number are needed.

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Media captionSierra Leone boy: "I've lost five members of my family"

Donors have given almost $400m (£250m) to UN agencies and aid organisations, following an appeal launched in September for $988m.

Separately, the UN is seeking $1bn for an Ebola trust fund, to provide a flexible source of back-up money to contain Ebola.

But UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday made another urgent appeal, saying the trust fund had received only $100,000 - from Colombia - though $20m has been pledged.

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Media captionChristopher Stokes: "[The crisis] has never been under control"

Meanwhile, the WHO has announced that Senegal is now officially free of Ebola, as it has gone 42 days without any sign of the virus.

There was one confirmed case of Ebola in the country, in late August, and the patient survived.

In other developments:

  • President Obama names Ron Klain - former chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden - as Ebola "tsar" in charge of combating the virus in the US
  • A US healthcare worker who may have come into contact with Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan is on a cruise ship in the Caribbean and has voluntarily isolated herself in her cabin
  • Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan told the BBC he was "bitterly disappointed" with the international community's response

Growing chorus

Mr Stokes, who leads MSF's Ebola response, said promises from the international community were encouraging "but it is not having any significant impact on the epidemic and it won't now for maybe another month or month and a half".

"We've been calling for massive deployments for several months now and the deployments are always behind the curve."

Another NGO, Action Aid, said the outbreak had to be tackled at source in West Africa.

Its head of humanitarian response, Mike Noyes, said in a statement: "There remains an urgent demand in countries like Liberia and Sierra Leone for more doctors, nurses, medical supplies and support for preventative measures."

Calls for more aid have also been made in recent days by US President Barack Obama, UK PM David Cameron, and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim.

The US, UK and France are among countries spearheading the aid effort, with the UK committing £125m ($200m) to Sierra Leone.


Separately, evidence has emerged suggesting there are concerns inside the World Health Organization that it failed to respond adequately to the outbreak earlier this year.

The Associated Press news agency says it has obtained an internal draft document in which WHO officials acknowledge failing to appreciate the seriousness of the situation as the number of cases grew.

"Nearly everyone involved in the outbreak response failed to see some fairly plain writing on the wall," the document says, according to AP.

The memo blames a lack of information, and incompetent staff.

MSF warned last April that the spread of Ebola in West Africa was unprecedented and becoming uncontrollable - a position rejected at the time by the WHO.

The latest figures issued by the WHO on Friday put the number of deaths from Ebola in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia at 4,546, with cases of infection numbering 9,191.

Measurement of the death and infection rates has proved difficult to estimate.

How not to catch Ebola:

  • Avoid direct contact with sick patients as the virus is spread through contaminated body fluids
  • Wear goggles to protect eyes
  • Clothing and clinical waste should be incinerated and any medical equipment that needs to be kept should be decontaminated
  • People who recover from Ebola should abstain from sex or use condoms for three months

Ebola basics: What you need to know

How Ebola attacks

What virus has hit - in maps

Uncertainty over figures

  • Protective Ebola suit

  • Surgical cap


    The cap forms part of a protective hood covering the head and neck. It offers medical workers an added layer of protection, ensuring that they cannot touch any part of their face whilst in the treatment centre.

  • Goggles


    Goggles, or eye visors, are used to provide cover to the eyes, protecting them from splashes. The goggles are sprayed with an anti-fogging solution before being worn. On October 21, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced stringent new guidelines for healthcare personnel who may be dealing with Ebola patients. In the new guidelines, health workers are advised to use a single use disposable full face shield as goggles may not provide complete skin coverage.

  • Medical mask


    Covers the mouth to protect from sprays of blood or body fluids from patients. When wearing a respirator, the medical worker must tear this outer mask to allow the respirator through.

  • Respirator


    A respirator is worn to protect the wearer from a patient's coughs. According to guidelines from the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), the respirator should be put on second, right after donning the overalls.

  • Medical Scrubs


    A surgical scrub suit, durable hospital clothing that absorbs liquid and is easily cleaned, is worn as a baselayer underneath the overalls. It is normally tucked into rubber boots to ensure no skin is exposed.

  • Overalls


    The overalls are placed on top of the scrubs. These suits are similar to hazardous material (hazmat) suits worn in toxic environments. The team member supervising the process should check that the equipment is not damaged.

  • Double gloves


    A minimum two sets of gloves are required, covering the suit cuff. When putting on the gloves, care must be taken to ensure that no skin is exposed and that they are worn in such a way that any fluid on the sleeve will run off the suit and glove. Medical workers must change gloves between patients, performing thorough hand hygiene before donning a new pair. Heavy duty gloves are used whenever workers need to handle infectious waste.

  • Apron


    A waterproof apron is placed on top of the overalls as a final layer of protective clothing.

  • Boots


    Ebola health workers typically wear rubber boots, with the scrubs tucked into the footwear. If boots are unavailable, workers must wear closed, puncture and fluid-resistant shoes.

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