UNITED NATIONS, United States (AFP) – The world is falling behind in a desperate race to stop the deadly Ebola outbreak, a top UN official warned on Tuesday amid dire predictions that thousands of new infections are possible before year’s end.
“Ebola got a head start on us,” said Anthony Banbury, head of the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response.
“It is far ahead of us, it is running faster than us, and it is winning the race,” the Briton told the UN Security Council in New York, by remote link from UNMEER headquarters in Accra, Ghana.
“If Ebola wins, we the peoples of the United Nations lose so very much,” he said.
The UN official made his remarks as the World Health Organisation said the Ebola infection rate could soon reach 10,000 a week as world leaders prepared to hold talks on the crisis at the United Nations.
“We either stop Ebola now or we face an entirely unprecedented situation for which we do not have a plan,” Banbury stressed.
He said that with infection rates rising exponentially every day, UNMEER will need 7,000 beds for treatment.
“There’s much bad news about Ebola but the good news is we know how to stop it,” said Banbury.
But to push back the spread “we must defeat Ebola and we must do it fast,” he said.
WHO assistant director general Bruce Aylward, describing his figures as a working forecast, said the epidemic “could reach 5,000 to 10,000 cases per week by the first week of December.”
The latest death toll is 4,447, from 8,914 recorded infection cases, Aylward said as the worst-ever Ebola outbreak spirals in the three hardest-hit countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
The WHO has called current Ebola outbreak the most severe in modern times.
On Monday, US President Barack Obama and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for the international campaign against the haemorrhagic virus, which is killing seven out of every 10 people infected, to be intensified.
Governments in west Africa have been scrambling to contain the epidemic, with patients in the Liberian capital describing devastating scenes as patients struggled to survive during a strike by health workers.