UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called for international leaders to stay engaged on Ebola. Recent data has shown a slowing of the rate of transmission in two of the three worst-affected west African countries, Guinea and Liberia. However, Sierra Leone was still reporting a high incidence of transmission.
"If we continue to accelerate our response, we can contain and end the outbreak by the middle of next year," Ban said.
According to the World Health Organization, 15,351 people have been sickened by Ebola in eight countries since the latest outbreak emerged in West Africa late last year. Of those, 5,549 have died. Experts agree that the real figures may be higher as not all Ebola deaths were reported as such.
Ban expressed concern about the recent spread of Ebola in Mali, where at least six people have died of Ebola and hundreds are being monitored in case of infection.
"Decisive national action combined with international support today will help to prevent a spread of the outbreak in Mali to crisis proportions tomorrow," Ban said as he ordered the United Nations mission for Ebola emergency response to set up in the country.
More assistance needed
The head of the UN's Ebola mission warned a huge increase in aid was still needed to fight the virus.
"There is a long battle ahead of us," Anthony Banbury told the UN Security Council Friday, saying a "tremendous increase in resources on the ground, in a dispersed geographic area" was required to fight the epidemic. "We are far, far away from ending this crisis," he added.
In previous months, the United Nations said about $1 billion (about 800 million euros) would be needed to stop the outbreak, but the world body recently increased that figure to $1.5 billion and was shifting its focus to preventing the virus spreading in rural areas.
"If we take our eye off the ball, case numbers will rise again, and we will all count the cost," the UN's special envoy on Ebola, David Nabarro, told the UN Security Council in New York.
While it was widely acknowledged that more health workers were needed to fight Ebola, doctors who have treated Ebola patients have also contracted the disease. In Switzerland, a 43-year-old doctor from Cuba who contracted the virus while working in Sierra Leone is undergoing treatment.
se/jm (dpa, AP, AFP, Reuters)