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Ebola - Sierra Leone

UN Ebola mission chief on 'mixed picture' in Sierra Leone, involvement of NATO and Ebola stats

Daniel Finnan

After his third whistle-stop tour around Sierra Leone in the space of a month, UN Ebola mission chief Anthony Banbury described the situation in the country as a “very mixed picture”. Banbury told journalists on Monday that Ebola statistics cannot be 100 per cent correct, he also did not rule out the involvement of NATO following calls for their participation in the fight against the deadly virus.

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“What I saw in Sierra Leone - in Kenema, in Port Loko – was a very mixed picture,” said Banbury, the head of the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER).

He spoke during a short press conference at the Special Court for Sierra Leone, set up to prosecute crimes committed during the country’s civil war, which is on the same site as the government’s National Ebola Response Centre.

Banbury’s comments came after it was revealed that a fifth local Sierra Leonean doctor Godfrey George died from the virus on Monday.

The UN career diplomat described both “broader encouraging signs” as well as more challenges ahead in fighting the epidemic.

When asked about calls for the involvement of NATO in stemming the spread of the virus, Banbury neither confirmed nor denied that this could happen. The American said it was “not so much about who provides help, but that it’s provided really fast”.

An open letter to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg had pointed out NATO’s “unique capabilities that could make a difference” to the Ebola outbreak with signatures from two former NATO heads, three former prime ministers and a number of former foreign and defence ministers.

Banbury said that they had “not seen the international response that’s required” while also pointing out that “the idea of any foreign military coming into a country is a matter for that sovereign government,” adding that it was not the UN’s job to make the case.

Neither statistics from the World Health Organisation nor Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Health could be 100 per cent accurate, said Banbury, conceding that nobody knows exactly how many people are currently infected.

He pointed out that information was one of the biggest challenges in fighting Ebola and that their response needs to be driven by data.

At the time of writing, the latest statistics from Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Health published on 1st November reports 1070 deaths while those from the World Health Organisation published on 31st October outlines 1510 deaths.

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