MSF has issued a plea for the international community not to turn its back on crucial ongoing efforts to end the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The organization's president warns the epidemic is "far from under control."
The number of Ebola cases recorded in West Africa has dropped significantly over the past few months, but medical organization Doctors Without Borders - known by its French acronym MSF - says "a major push" is still needed to end the outbreak.
In a commentary published Wednesday in the scientific journal "Nature," MSF head Joanne Liu called for a "redoubling" of international efforts.
"Fatigue and a waning focus are threatening the final push," Liu wrote, adding that "United Nations agencies, foreign aid teams and NGOs should not yet pull out of West Africa."
More than 11,000 people have died in the Ebola epidemic, which broke out in Guinea in December 2013 before spreading to neighboring Sierra Leone and Liberia. The number of infections in all three countries has dropped sharply in recent weeks, but there are still a handful of new individual cases being recorded.
Not out of the woods
More than 20 Ebola cases were reported in Guinea and Sierra Leone each week between mid-June and mid-July, Liu wrote. The disease also reemerged in Liberia in June - just weeks after the country was declared Ebola free.
"We cannot talk about fighting future epidemics more effectively when we have failed to incorporate the lessons learned in this outbreak to bring it under control," Liu wrote.
"All the ingredients that enabled last year's devastation are still with us: rainy seasons, an uncoordinated response, fear and distrust. We need to push through the fatigue and complacency, and put everything we have learned into action to end this epidemic."
The Ebola outbreak crippled economies and health systems across the region, leaving many communities vulnerable to other diseases such as malaria and measles. Liu urged governments and aid agencies to focus on the rebuilding of basic health infrastructure in the three affected countries, saying it was "crucial" to ending the epidemic.
Liu also said last week's successful trial of the Ebola vaccine VSV-ZEBOV in Guinea was a promising development, and argued there was no reason similar vaccination tests couldn't be rolled out in other affected countries as well.