UNICEF to double staff in west Africa to fight Ebola

November 5, 2014 12:39 am 

UNITED NATIONS, Nov. 4 — A United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) official said here Monday that the agency will be doubling its staff from 300 to 600 in the three most-affected countries — Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Global Ebola Emergency Coordinator for UNICEF Peter Salama told reporters that children account for 20 percent of all Ebola cases in these three countries, noting that an estimated 5 million children are affected and some 4,000 children have become orphaned from the current epidemic.

"Schools are closed, children are confined to their homes and discouraged to play with other children," he said.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the ongoing Ebola epidemic has killed some 5,000 people.

Seen from the eyes of the millions of children in the three most affected countries, the epidemic is terrifying as "death is all around them," he said.

"If we don't stop the outbreak, if we don't defeat Ebola, it is going to defeat everything that we've been doing in support of children collectively in these countries for many years. And we are already seeing that detrimental impact on education services, on primary health care services," he said.

"So for us the number one priority for the next few months has to be to put all of our efforts, all of our staffing, all of our resources, behind stopping the outbreak," he added.

Calling the situation "a twin epidemic," Salama said "it is the epidemic of a virus, but also an epidemic of global fear and ignorance."

"And with fear and ignorance sadly comes stigma and discrimination. We must tackle both epidemics to be successful," he said.

Meanwhile, Anthony Banbury, head of the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER), arrived in Sierra Leone on Monday after visiting Guinea over the weekend.

Banbury visited Ebola treatment centers in remote areas of the two countries to see how the UN mission can fill the gaps in the response, met with survivors and visited a logistics base, said UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric at a regular briefing.

"He also visited the newly-opened Command and Control Center, which is in charge of coordinating burials and ambulance pick-ups," he said, adding that Banbury will also visit Liberia on Tuesday before briefing the UN Security Council next week. (PNA/Xinhua)



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