5 000 more health workers needed in Ebola fight

2014-10-29 06:13
A health worker cleans his hands with chlorinated water before entering a Ebola screening tent, at the Kenema Government Hospital in Sierra Leone. (Michael Duff, AP)

A health worker cleans his hands with chlorinated water before entering a Ebola screening tent, at the Kenema Government Hospital in Sierra Leone. (Michael Duff, AP)

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Addis Ababa - The Ebola outbreak in West Africa requires at least 5,000 additional health workers, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said on Tuesday.

"Health workers are critical. We need 5 000 health workers who must rotate," Kim said in Addis Ababa at a press conference with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and African Union chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

The World Bank chief expressed concern over how to find the health workers "with the fear factor going out of control in so many places."

"I put a call to all medical practitioners around the world to keep to their oath to provide treatment. We have to step up our efforts," he said.

Dlamini-Zuma said the AU had mobilized 2 000 health workers. Ban said he was worried about the "stigmatisation" of health workers returning from humanitarian missions in West Africa.

US President Barack Obama spoke on Tuesday with US aid workers in West Africa and urged officials not to institute quarantines and other policies that would discourage US aid workers from working to fight the outbreak.

Doctors and nurses who volunteer to work in West Africa should be "applauded, thanked and supported," Obama said at the White House amid disagreements with local officials in the United States over whether returning health care workers should be forced into quarantine.

Obama says they should be monitored, but that any steps to restrict their movement must be based in science and not fear. Halting the disease in Africa was the only way to stop it from further spreading to the United States, where a Liberian man died from the disease and infected two nurses in Dallas.

"They are doing God's work over there," he said. "They are doing that to keep us safe."

Atlanta's Emory University Hospital released an at-times tearful nurse Amber Vinson after tests showed she was free of Ebola.

"I ask that we not lose focus on the thousands of families that continue to labour under the burden of this disease," Vinson told a media briefing at the hospital.

Vinson contracted Ebola while caring for Thomas Eric Duncan - the Liberian man who died in early October at a Dallas hospital - and was flown to Atlanta for treatment.

She was one of two Texas nurses to be infected with Ebola after tending to Duncan. The other, Nina Pham, was released from hospital last week.

Dr Bruce Ribner, who heads Emory's department of serious communicable diseases, warned of the negative effect of tightened US quarantine measures for health care workers returning from the Ebola zone in West Africa.

Such moves could deter potential volunteers from going, critics have said.

"We have to be mindful of unintended consequences that may make it more difficult to manage [the disease in Africa]," Ribner said.

In Brussels, Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the military alliance was in contact with the United Nations to discuss whether it could play a role in the fight against the disease. He stressed the efforts that are being made by Nato member countries.

"The question is not whether Nato allies are contributing in fighting Ebola, but the question is whether this is best organised through a Nato structure - and that's too early to say, but we are in dialogue with the UN," Stoltenberg said.

Read more on:    un  |  world bank  |  nato  |  west africa  |  ebola

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