Ebola stigma hindering medical response, says Red Cross

German Red Cross centre in Liberia Image copyright AFP
Image caption Red Cross societies - including the German one seen here in Liberia - have been setting up treatment centres

Stigma against travellers from Ebola-infected countries is hindering the fight against the disease, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) says.

The head of the IFRC, Mr Elhadj As Sy, warned that travel bans were preventing his organisation's medical workers from dealing with the outbreak.

He urged governments to avoid acting out of fear and misinformation.

Ebola has killed nearly 7,000 people this year - mostly in West Africa.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 16,000 people have been infected by the virus.

Between 200 and 300 people are dying every week. Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are by far the worst hit countries.

Later on Tuesday, US President Barack Obama is expected ask Congress to approve $6.18bn (£3.95bn; €4.98bn) in emergency funds to fight the Ebola outbreak.

Much of the money is aimed at dealing with the immediate response to the outbreak.

However, it also includes $1.5bn in contingency funds to prepare US hospitals for possible cases, Reuter news agency reports.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Local and international health care workers are leading the fight against Ebola

In an IFRC statement released on Tuesday, Mr Sy acknowledged that governments were "legitimately putting measures in place to protect their citizens" against Ebola.

However, he criticised some of the more "drastic measures" taken to control the spread of the virus.

These included the "unnecessary" quarantining of health workers, preventing international staff from returning to their countries of origin, and forcing them to spend a 21-day "rest and observation period" in a third country.

Praise for Spain

The statement also criticised blanket restrictions placed on people with West African passports.

"Closing borders and limiting entry to people travelling from West Africa are not effective ways to contain the outbreak," Mr Sy said.

"Actions such as these only contribute to the stigmatisation faced by the very brave people who are volunteering to respond to this outbreak."

He said travel restrictions were preventing many medical workers from applying for positions in Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone, hindering his organisation's response.

The IFRC is one of several international organisations that are working to combat the epidemic.

Separately, the WHO has praised Spain for having ended the Ebola outbreak on its soil.

In early October, a health worker involved in treating an Ebola-infected patient became the first person to contract the disease in Spain.

The worker was successfully treated for Ebola, while dozens of others were monitored for symptoms.

The WHO officially declared Spain free of Ebola on Tuesday after 42 days passed with no new cases.