Liberia imposes curfew as Ebola crisis grows; death toll rises to 1,229
Monrovia/Geneva – Liberia battled on Tuesday to halt the spread of the Ebola disease in its crowded, run-down oceanside capital Monrovia, recording the most new deaths as fatalities from the world’s worst outbreak of the deadly virus rose to 1,229 out of 2,240 cases.
The epidemic of the hemorrhagic disease, which can kill up to 90 percent of those it infects, is ravaging the three small West African states of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, and also has a toehold in Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy.
The United Nation’s new pointman on Ebola David Nabarro is heading to West Africa this week to hold talks with a UN mission in Liberia on ways peacekeepers could deal with the impact of the disease.
“The United Nations is very much looking at ways to get health services working… This is a really big challenge.”
The spreading virus is overwhelming inadequate public health services already battling common deadly diseases such as malaria.
Efforts to contain the epidemic have also run up against local distrust of outside doctors, and stories of aid workers carrying the infection.
He noted that the 7,500-strong UN mission in Liberia (UNMIL) has a “very important role in that country and has a lot to offer” to strengthen the health sector and to deal with the broader impact of the outbreak.
The Geneva-based World Health Organization rushed to ramp up the global response to the outbreak, including emergency food deliveries to quarantined zones.
The WHO said it was working with the UN’s World Food Programme to ensure food delivery to one million people living in Ebola quarantine zones cordoned off by local security forces in a border zone of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
“Providing regular food supplies is a potent means of limiting unnecessary movement,” it said in a statement.
“The communities of West Point in Monrovia and Dolo Town in Margibi are quarantined under full security watch. This means that there will be no movements in and out of those areas,” the statement said.
Fears of the disease and quarantine measures such as military and police roadblocks have stopped farmers from reaching their fields and food output has dropped, raising fears that a famine could set in on top of the deadly illness.
“We think that even beyond the control of the outbreak there will be severe food shortage,” said Gon Myers, WFP country director for Sierra Leone. The extra food deliveries would be trying to reach 400,000 people in Sierra Leone alone.
The WHO has told countries affected by the outbreak to screen people departing at airports, seaports and major land border points and stop any with signs of the virus.
To stop the spread of Ebola in Monrovia, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf declared a curfew Tuesday from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. and ordered security forces to quarantine a slum home to at least 50,000 people.
We have been unable to control the spread due to continued denials, cultural burying practices, disregard for the advice of health workers and disrespect for the warnings by the government,” she said. “As a result and due to the large population concentration the disease has spread widely in Monrovia and environs.”