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2 Oct, 2014 15:22

1 month to stop Ebola before it's 'totally out of control' - global aid NGO

1 month to stop Ebola before it's 'totally out of control' - global aid NGO

The International Rescue Committee (IRC), on behalf of 34 NGOs battling Ebola in West Africa, has warned that the number of cases is doubling roughly every three weeks and the globe has only four weeks to stop the crisis from spiraling out of control.

Aid organizations have called for a six-point plan to combat the virus at an international summit convened in London to tackle the epidemic.

The charity Save the Children warned that five people are being infected with the virus every hour.

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced earlier this week that more than 3,000 people have died from Ebola so-far in West Africa. 6,500 cases have been officially recorded, but the real number is expected to be far higher, as many victims are dying unreported.

The ‘Defeating Ebola’ conference commenced in London on Thursday. It will highlight the scale of the crisis, just after Dr. David Nabarro, leading the United Nation's Ebola response, said that epidemic scares him more than either the early years of the HIV virus and SARS.

READ MORE: Ebola worse than HIV, SARS - UN official

Sanjayan Srikanthan from the IRC, speaking on behalf of aid organizations and NGOs such as Christian Aid and Oxfam, told delegates that the world has a small “window of opportunity” left to stop the disease spreading further.

“Every day we delay in disbursing resources to affected countries, the more impossible it becomes to contain the disease. The international community has a window of opportunity over the next four weeks to stop the crisis from spreading completely out of control. To do so we must break transmission rates and halt the exponential increase in cases,” he says in a statement prepared for the summit.

A WHO spokesman said that transmission is still widespread in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone with the number of new cases increasing sharply in several districts.

British Ebola survivor William Pooley listens to speakers during the "Defeating Ebola: Sierra Leone" conference in central London, on October 2, 2014. (Reuters/Pool/Leon Neal)

Of the three, the situation in Sierra Leone is the most “critical.” Save the Children said that 765 new cases were reported in the country last week but there were only 327 beds available “with five people infected every hour.”

“We need a coordinated international response that ensures treatment centers are built and staffed immediately,” said Justin Forsyth, the Save the Children’s chief executive, as quoted by British media.

The IRC’s six-point plan to combat the Ebola epidemic is outlined in their statement prepared for the conference.

First on the list is - unsurprisingly, given that Ebola has struck in some of the world’s poorest countries - more financial help. The IRC said that only a quarter of the amount needed has been committed so far and urged international donors to increase donations and hand them over to the UN appeal within two weeks.

Second is medical personnel and equipment. Many health centers lack the resources to diagnose, isolate and treat patients with Ebola, and protect health workers.

Srikanthan also asks for more military and civilian support as Aid agencies don’t have enough staff to deal with the crisis.

“As a measure of last resort we are calling on governments to release military capacity to set up facilities and help manage them, to expedite the deployment of volunteers from health services and agencies,” he says.

He also called for help to mobilize local communities and for local media in Ebola-affected countries help “reduce transmission and dispel rumors and misunderstanding about Ebola.”

Srikanthan asked for the international community to come up with a contingency plan and that the $1 billion that it is estimated is needed to adequately respond to the Ebola crisis, is just the sum which will cover the cost of the response in three of the countries with confirmed cases.

Finally, he warned that the hidden indirect costs of Ebola are far greater and that “as national resources are diverted to responding to the outbreak, health systems have collapsed. Easily treatable and preventable illnesses are claiming hundreds of lives.”