Health workers on Ebola response frontlines get boost with donation of protective gear – UN

Some 20,000 sets of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) from the Japan Disaster Relief Team for the Ebola response are offloaded in Ghana. Photo: UNMEER/Simon Ruf

8 December 2014 – The first of 700,000 sets of protective gear intended for healthcare workers battling on the frontlines of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa arrived today from Japan and were handed over the United Nations, as the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said the crisis has left some 5 million children out of school.

Declaring 2014 a “devastating year for children” including those posed by new significant new threats to children’s health and well-being, most notably the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, UNICEF reported today that the epidemic has orphaned thousands and left an estimated 5 million children out of school.

The fight against Ebola received a boost today with the arrival of 20,000 sets of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) from the Japan Disaster Relief Team. It is the first batch of 700,000 sets of such equipment committed by the Government of Japan to the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER).

The equipment committed by the Government of Japan to UNMEER should help provide critical protection to healthcare workers in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Mali.

At the official handover ceremony this morning in Accra, the head of the UN mission Anthony Banbury thanked Japan and stressed the need for contributions from partners around the world to keep up the fight.

According to the UN World Health Organization (WHO), it is most important to have protective equipment that protects the mouth, nose and eyes from contaminated droplets and fluids. Given that hands are known to transmit pathogens to other parts of the body, as well as to other individuals, gloves are essential, both to protect the health worker and to prevent transmission to others. Face cover, protective foot wear, gowns or coveralls, and head cover are also considered essential to prevent transmission to healthcare workers.

Meanwhile, the peacekeeper from the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), who tested positive for the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) on 3 December, was evacuated from the United States-run Ebola Treatment Unit in Monrovia to the Netherlands on Saturday.

UNMIL head Karin Landgren said that she was encouraged that the medical evacuation process was organized quickly and efficiently and that the patient, who was in stable condition, will receive the best possible treatment in a Dutch medical facility.

WHO, in its latest statistics issued today, said the total number of cases in the worst-affected countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone rose to 17,800 with 6,331 deaths.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, speaking at the 70th Anniversary session of the International Civil Aviation Organization Council (ICAO), commended the organization for “standing firmly” with the World Health Organization against general bans on travel and trade that block efforts to rush in medical responders and supplies.

“When Ebola broke out, ICAO answered fear with facts,” the UN chief said.

Mr. Ban also said ICAO advocated measures to make sure that suspected cases are managed safely in ways that stop Ebola from spreading. As part of the global Travel and Transport Force, ICAO is coordinating the international response to Ebola’s impact on travel, trade and tourism.

UNMEER, meanwhile, reported that the National Coordinator of Guinea’s National Ebola Response Cell, on instructions from President Alpha Condé, dispatched a number of Cabinet ministers to the field to meet with local authorities and the population in featuring community resistance.

“The ministers were instructed to sensitize and inform the population about the government’s response strategy, reinforce the authority of the prefectural Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) response coordinators, and ensure the swifter deployment of comités de veille (community watch committees), which President Condé has criticized as progressing too slowly,” UNMEER reported.

WHO had informed that Ebola contact tracing efforts had to be suspended in two locations due to local community resistance, including alleged death threats against Ebola response workers.

Meanwhile, in Mali, some 20 UN peacekeepers who had been placed under quarantine after they were potentially exposed to the Ebola virus more than three weeks ago have been released, UNMEER reported. The soldiers were being treated at a clinic in the capital, Bamako, for injuries sustained while serving in the UN mission in Mali, when a nurse working at the facility died of Ebola.

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