Freetown – Sierra Leone confirmed on Thursday it was some way short of a key target to reduce the spread of Ebola by isolating almost three-quarters of patients in treatment beds.
The World Health Organization (WHO) set a 60-day goal on October 1 to isolate 70% of Ebola patients in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone and ensure safe burials for 70% of bodies, which are highly infectious.
But in Sierra Leone, only 60% of patients were in isolation by 1 December, the head of the government’s Ebola response unit, Palo Conteh, told reporters in Freetown.
“I think it was a good result, even though the 70% goal was not reached, because when the clock started ticking we were only just putting all logistical arrangements together,” he said
The WHO has already acknowledged that an increase in Ebola cases in Sierra Leone meant the country was running behind target.
WHO assistant director-general Bruce Aylward said on Monday he expected Sierra Leone to reach the isolation goal in the “coming weeks,” insisting the national figures were skewed by a new outbreak in the west of the country.
The WHO is looking at how to better trace people who had close contact with Ebola victims, in order to try halt the epidemic by mid-2015.
Of the $1.55bn pledged for the Ebola fight, about $920m has been delivered, according to the WHO.
That means that in some areas, “a lot of things have been done on the cheap”, according to Aylward.
The WHO has acknowledged that meeting another target – 100% isolation of patients and 100% safe burials by 1 January – will be “challenging”.
Conteh said half of Sierra Leone’s 14 districts had reported no new cases in the seven days before Tuesday.
“It is only certain districts that are having problems. On 3 December, out of the 93 confirmed cases, the Western Area had 75. Other districts have shown much, much less,” he said.