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African press review 17 October 2014

The Ebola epidemic running out of control in west Africa continues to dominate the African press. 

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Nigeria’s This Day newspaper breaks the story of a Liberian minister who went on voluntary quarantine for 21 days after her driver died of the Ebola virus. The paper says that Angela Cassell-Bush who holds the transport portfolio returned to work on Monday almost a month after her deputy died of Ebola.

Dossier: Ebola outbreak 2014

In Liberia, meanwhile, the Daily Observer publishes excerpts of a diary kept by a woman separated from her baby after being diagnosed with the Ebola virus. She vents her frustrations and anguish after being prevented from seeing the toddler, not knowing that her entire household had also been infected and placed in quarantine at home.

The Observer says the woman, who is in the terminal phase of her illness, slipped out of her own quarantine to try to see her son but found the Ebola taskforce there spraying the place and unlocking the doors. She recalls how no one tried to stop her from getting in, only to realise that the house was empty.

Liberia has been the hardest hit by the epidemic, with 2,458 deaths out of 4,249 cases, according to World Health Organisation (WHO) figures.

The New Dawn newspaper says the country has declared a shortage of body bags, which are crucial to preventing the spread of the deadly virus. The paper quotes the health ministry reporting that it has only 4,900 body bags nationwide but needs an estimated 85,000 more in the next six months. The grim inventory also points to penuries of vital equipment and supplies such as protective suits, face masks, gloves and goggles.

In South Africa the Mail and Guardian publishes a rare account of the Ebola effort in Sierra Leone by Dr Kathryn Stinson, a public health researcher and epidemiologist at the University of Cape Town who is on a personal volunteer mission in the ravaged west African country.

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She writes about her experiences in Kenema, in Kailahun district, where she realised that despite the outbreak and the fear of infection market places remained flooded with people buying and selling.

Stinson gives a graphic account of a sick man she found lying prostrate in the road as she and her companions approached a busy traffic circle. He was emaciated and his face contorted in pain, trying to shade his eyes with one arm, she recalls, adding that all they did was shake their heads and drive on. She says the picture was the clearest sign she found that Ebola is real. She says she couldn’t stop herself looking behind to catch another glimpse of the sick man, knowing that no one will approach him and that he was most likely to die alone.

With the WHO projecting that the death toll from the outbreak will cross the 4,500 mark this week, Nigeria’s Vanguard reports that the UN body is ramping up Ebola protection efforts across Africa.

According to the paper, Isabelle Nuttall, who heads the WHO’s alert and response arm, said in Geneva Thursday that special attention is being paid to Guinea Bissau, Senegal, Mali and Côte d'Ivoire, which border Ebola-ravaged Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. The Vanguard also says that 11 more countries have been singled out for special assistance based on their road and trade ties to the affected region. The WHO also warned that the total number of Ebola infections could exceed 9,000 by the end of this week.

Kenya’s Daily Nation welcomes the decision by US President Barack Obama on Thursday to send 3,200 reservists to help combat the Ebola epidemic in west Africa. The force is headed to Liberia and Senegal to provide logistical and engineering support to the 50 active duty troops already on the ground.

The Johannesburg Star is monitoring Morocco’s request for a postponement of the 2015 African Nations Cup tournament due to fears that travelling supporters could put the country at greater risk from the Ebola epidemic.

The paper reports that Africa’s football governing body, CAF, has approached South Africa and Ghana as possible hosts. The tournament is scheduled for 17 January-8 February next year. According to the Star, CAF has handed Morocco an ultimatum to toe the line or give up their hosting rights. It reports that a delegation headed by President Issa Hayatou is scheduled to arrive in Rabat on 3 November to find out what the Moroccans have decided to do.

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