ACCRA (AA) – Guinea and Sierra Leone, two of the countries hardest hit by Ebola, hope to be entirely free of the virus by May 2015.
“We should not be reporting new cases as of February,” Dr. Alie Wurie, chairman of case management at Sierra Leone’s National Ebola Response Center, told The Anadolu Agency on the sidelines of a health ministers’ meeting in Accra devoted to anti-Ebola technical coordination.
“As of May, we should be done with Ebola. That’s our target,” he said.
“We are going into robust surveillance. We’ve got more laboratory facilities and more beds; treatment centers are under-utilized because we have more beds than patients. This makes confident that we can meet the May target,” added Wurie.
In recent months, Ebola – a contagious disease for which there is no known treatment or cure – has killed 8,429 people, mostly in West Africa, according to a World Health Organization (WHO) report issued on Jan. 14.
In Sierra Leone alone, the virus has claimed a total of 3,062 lives to date.
According to the WHO, Sierra Leone has registered 769 Ebola cases in the past 21 days.
“Our cases are dropping down tremendously,” Wurie told AA. “We are talking about less than 30 nationwide per day. Two days ago, we had less than 20 cases.”
“With the intensified social mobilization going on and by engaging the community, we’re confident that we will reach our target,” the official added.
Thursday’s meeting brought together health ministers and officials from across West Africa.
Also in attendance were officials from the 16-state Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a regional grouping, and representatives from the African Union, the European Union and the U.S.
Recommendations from the ministerial meeting will be presented on Friday to a high-level coordination meeting between ECOWAS heads of state.
Dr. Pepe Bilivogi, national director of hygiene at Guinea’s Health Ministry, made similarly optimistic projections.
“We want to have zero Ebola after two months,” he told AA.
“When we have zero cases, we have 42 days to work hard and have no contacts to follow,” Bilivogi explained.
According to the official, the government has taken several measures aimed at eradicating the virus.
“We have done a lot of things – in terms of mobilization, provision of materials and logistics – that can help us with the fight against Ebola,” said Bilivogi.
The deadly virus has claimed 1,814 lives in Guinea. But the country has registered only 230 cases in the past 21 days, according to the WHO.
Addressing his fellow West African health ministers, Ghana’s Kwaku Agyeman Mensah regretted that the targets set by the UN Mission on Emergency Ebola Response (UNMEER) had not been met as of January 1, 2015.
“Each country has sufficient capacity to bury all people known to have died from EVD [Ebola], though the under-reporting of deaths means that the UNMEER target of 100-percent safe burial has not been met,” he said.
“Increasing emphasis will have to be put on the rapid deployment of smaller treatment facilities to ensure that capacity is matched with demand in each area,” Mensah insisted.
He noted that the West Africa Health Organization (WAHO) had trained and deployed volunteer health workers – mostly doctors and nurses – to support affected countries.
“Participants are from Ghana, Nigeria, Benin, Cote D’Ivoire and Mali,” he noted. “A total of 116 volunteers have been deployed, with the majority of them – 42 – from Ghana.”
WAHO Director-General Dr. Carlos Brito, for his part, unveiled a regional, multi-sectoral plan for combatting Ebola.
He lamented, however, the lack of funding.
According to Brito, only 36 percent of the sought-for $82 million had been obtained so far.
He said the delay in resource mobilization represented a major obstacle to fighting the virus.
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