DAKAR – Christopher Stokes, Director-General, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) otherwise known as doctors without borders, said slow international response to West Africa Ebola outbreak created an avoidable tragedy that cost thousands of lives.[pro_ad_display_adzone id=”10″]
Medecins Sans Frontieres, a French-funded international aid non-governmental organization, is also known as.
Stokes said this on Monday in Dakar in a report on the one year anniversary of the first confirmed Ebola case.
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“The world’s worst Ebola epidemic has killed over 10,200 people in the three most affected countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone since March 2014,’’ he said.
He said everyone, from national governments to the World Health Organisation (WHO), had created bottlenecks that prevented the epidemic from being quickly snuffed out.
“The Ebola outbreak has often been described as a perfect storm, a cross-border epidemic in countries with weak public health systems that had never seen Ebola before.
“Yet this is too convenient an explanation for the Ebola outbreak to spiral this far out of control with tragic and avoidable consequences,’’ he said.
Stokes said in the report entitled: “Pushed to the Limit and Beyond” that the MSF warnings in June that the epidemic was out of control and that it could not respond on its own were dismissed as alarmist.
He said unfortunately Guinea and Sierra Leone downplayed the epidemic and accused MSF of spreading fear and panic.
“In June Sierra Leone government told the WHO to report only lab-confirmed deaths thereby falsely reducing the death toll,’’ he said.
Stokes said the report indicated that Kenema hospital in the southeastern Serra Leoone, where some of the first cases were reported also withheld crucial epidemiological data.
He said this action prevented MSF from identifying affected villages and responding.
Anja Wolz, MSF’s Emergency Coordinator in Sierra Leone, said the Ministry of Health and the partners of Kenema hospital refused to share data or lists of contacts with Frontieres.
He said they were working in the dark while cases kept coming in.
Wolz said Liberia was transparent and asked for help almost on a daily basis. He said the outbreak could have been halted if immediate action was taken.
Wolz said when MSF first declared there was an unprecedented Ebola outbreak at the end of March 2014 WHO rejected the assessment.
“It finally declared a public health emergency on Aug. 8, prompting a belated international response,’’ he said.
MSF coordinator Rosa Crestani, who worked at the organisation’s Ebola centre in Monrovia, said they had to make ‘horrendous decisions about who we could let into the centre.’
She said the centre could only be opened for 30 minutes a day because of the demand for beds.
“We could only offer very basic palliative care and there were so many patients and so few staff that the staff had on average, only one minute per patient.
“t is an indescribable horror and great disaster,” she said. (Reuters/NAN)