Amid uptick in Ebola cases, UN agency cites challenges in reaching affected communities

This motorbike has crossed the border from Sarkonedou in Liberia to Koutizou in Guinea. The opening of Liberia’s official borders enables economic activities and allows students to attend school. Photo: UNMEER/Kennei Momoh

26 February 2015 – New cases of Ebola rose again in Guinea and transmission remains widespread in Sierra Leone, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) reported as it and the UN Ebola response mission both raised concerns about challenges in engaging communities to win the fight against the disease.

Both WHO and UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) also noted unsafe burials of those who died from the disease posed as a challenge and that “a significant number” of individuals are still either unable or reluctant to seek treatment for Ebola, which has affected over 23,500 people and killed more than 9,500 mainly in the Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

In its latest update issued Wednesday afternoon, WHO reported that new cases in Guinea continued to arise from “unknown chains of transmission” and that transmission remained “widespread in Sierra Leone” but transmission continued at very low levels in Liberia, with 1 new confirmed case reported in the 7 days to 22 February associated with a known chain of transmission.

“Engaging effectively with communities remains a challenge in several geographical areas,” WHO said in its most recent update Nearly one-third of prefectures in Guinea reported at least one security incident in the week to 22 February, often as a result of rumours and misinformation linking response efforts with the spread of EVD [Ebola Virus Disease], according to WHO.

The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Ebola, Dr. David Nabarro, last week told the UN General Assembly that the final phase of “getting to zero” cases may well be the hardest, saying the hunt to track down the virus is “like looking for needles in haystacks.”

Dr. Nabarro told reports that having strong surveillance capabilities on the ground to identify people with Ebola, to confirm diagnosis, to quickly arrangement arrange effective treatment, to identify people that are their contacts and to keep those people under review for 21 days “is a really difficult task.” UNMEER also reported today that border between Guinea and Liberia reopened to the public on Wednesday after months of closure.


News Tracker: past stories on this issue

UN health agency approves rapid test for Ebola as decline in cases appears to level off

Related Stories





In-depth Interviews