World / Reporter's Journal

Good news and bad news on the Ebola battlefront

By Chris Davis (China Daily USA) Updated: 2014-12-04 06:11
Going by the numbers, the Ebola epidemic in West Africa appears to be trackable. In the three countries with widespread transmission — Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone — 16,899 cases have led to 5,987 deaths. Add to those the four cases in the US leading to one death, eight cases in Mali leading to six deaths and 20 cases in Nigeria resulting in eight deaths, and a convincingly specific round-up seems to take shape.

But it's what's going on in the remote, rural areas of these countries, the leading edges of the outbreak, that have health officials most concerned now. And the call has gone out for help.Good news and bad news on the Ebola battlefront

The United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) set a target date of Monday for what it called a 70-70-60 goal: 70 percent of cases isolated and treated and 70 percent of the dead safely buried in the 60 days from early October to Monday.

Top UN officials met with reporters in Accra, Ghana, two days before the deadline with good news and bad news.

Thanks to the hard work of responders and locals, progress had been achieved in some regions, meaning their strategy — when they can put it in place and implement it — works.

"Unfortunately, we've not been able to put the elements of the response in place everywhere, and where it's lacking, we see the significant or very bad situation," said UNMEER head Anthony Banbury.

In parts of Sierra Leone and Guinea, "the numbers of cases continue to accelerate day by day", he said.

A piece of good news is that there's been no sign of "donor fatigue", said Dr David Nabarro, the UN's Special Envoy on Ebola. "The world is on the side of those who are involved in this fight." Presumably, the money keeps rolling in. Or does it?, an international advocacy group focused on poverty and disease in Africa, has set up an interactive Ebola response tracker on its website, using a variety of sources — from the UN to government press releases and researchers — to keep tabs on the amount of aid the top 20 countries and foundations have pledged and how much of it has been actually dispersed since the outbreak in October and to whom.

They've found major gaps. "No donors have attached clear timelines to their contributions for delivery," the website says. "The time lag between turning pledges into contractual commitments and then converted into fully paid out disbursements, in many cases, is too long."

At the top of the list of donors is the US, having pledged $572 million and delivered to date 73.47 percent of it, or $420.2 million.

In the second spot is the World Bank Group, which pledged $518 million since the outbreak in October and so far has delivered 22.59 percent, or $117 million.

Next in the ranking of amount pledged are European Union "institutions", which committed to $467.58 million and have so far delivered 17.45 percent, or $81.59 million.

The UK is fourth, pledging $359.8 and to date delivered 48.22 percent, or $174 million.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation promised $50 million and has delivered 27.3 percent of it. The Paul G. Allen Family pledged $100 million and has sent 2.9 percent.

China is ninth on list of nations, having pledged $122.5 million and, according to, having delivered 8.33 percent to date, or $10.2 million.

A report in today's China Daily says that on Tuesday China donated another $6 million to the United Nations' fund for combating the Ebola outbreak, bringing its total donation to date to $19 million, which would be 15.5 percent of its reported pledge.

The report also said that China will increase to 1,000 the number of medical workers it will send to the affected countries over the next few months, with 500 already on the ground there providing treatment, taking part in observing patients, researching the virus, providing food and funding the construction of a 100-bed Ebola treatment center in Monrovia, Liberia's capital. notes that the totals of pledges and commitments "may include the value of in-kind assistance, but the breakdown is unclear".

The UN said that now the most crucial need is for people who possess a rare set of skills and experience — being able to take care of patients and undertake contact tracing and analysis of how the outbreak is evolving in remote areas. Boots on the ground, digging into the weeds.

"There are not thousands and thousands of people who are really experienced in Ebola and its management," Nabarro said. "So what we're doing is looking very hard for the best people in the world and encouraging them to come and work with the governments of the affected countries."

China Daily reports that Chinese health personnel who had experience with containing the 2003 SARS epidemic will provide training for more than 10,000 medical workers, grassroots administrators, community leaders, government leaders, student and volunteers in the affected countries.

Contact the writer at


Most Popular
Hot Topics