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Ebola response needs to scale up

1 December 2014

Members of a Liberian Red Cross Safe and Dignified Burials team remove the body of a suspected Ebola fatality from a building in Paynesville, Monrovia.

The UN has warned that its 1 December “70-70-60 target” will not be met. In response, the British Red Cross is calling for efforts to tackle the Ebola virus to be scaled up. 

The UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response set targets to isolate 70% of suspected cases in West Africa and safely bury 70% of the dead within the 60 days running up to 1 December. It has confirmed this target has not been met. 

“Projections by the UN confirm our abiding concerns that our efforts to stem the spread of Ebola remain behind the transmission curve,” said Katy Attfield, the head of disaster management at the Red Cross. 

“More is required in the recruitment of personnel, funding for response work and the provision of resources and equipment to fight this Ebola outbreak.”  

New cases of Ebola

“Following a recent surge of optimism that the virus was coming under control, especially in parts of Liberia, we have noted that new cases are flaring up in new locations in Sierra Leone and Mali,” Katie explained.

“While we have made some very good progress elsewhere, it’s absolutely premature to start being optimistic as a lot remains to be done. 

“The Red Cross believes the most effective way to curb the spread of Ebola is to stop it at the source: providing comprehensive information to affected communities, tracing and isolating infected people, employing effective burial teams, and providing health personnel and logistics experts.  

“We also need to ensure that there is a joined-up international public health response in West Africa.” 

Red Cross doubles number of volunteers

These volunteers educate communities about the disease and safe hygienic practices. They also provide support to treatment units across West Africa. They are at the frontline of the crisis when the virus is most infectious – during burials.

Katie says: “The Red Cross safe-and-dignified-burial teams have carried out 100 per cent of all Ebola-related burials in Guinea. This is thanks to the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement’s long-standing presence in West African communities. 

“In Liberia's capital city Monrovia, the delay in safe and dignified management of dead bodies between death and burial has been reduced from three days to less than 24 hours, meaning the time for which dead bodies are exposed has reduced.

“The Liberia Red Cross has conducted more than 2,400 burials. In Sierra Leone, the Red Cross has burial teams in 19 districts of the country and is aiming to increase these teams to 20 more districts to cover the entire country, before the end of the year.”

Find out about the Red Cross' work to tackle Ebola and our fundraising appeal.

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