The United Nation’s goal of isolating 100 percent of Ebola cases by Jan. 1 will not be met, the agency has conceded.
The U.N.’s special envoy on Ebola said last week that it would be several months before the outbreak in West Africa is under control.
Dr. David Nabarro said international governments as well as local communities have taken a “massive shift” in responding to the crisis over the past four month, the Associated Press reports.
However, he noted that far more needs to be done to contain the spread of the disease in western Sierra Leone and northern Mali. “It’s going to take, I’m afraid, several more months before we can truly declare that the outbreak is coming under control,” Nabarro said.
The World Health Organization aimed to have 100 percent of cases isolated by Jan. 1, but acknowledges that previous targets have not been met.
Last week, parts of Sierra Leone were placed under a 2-week ‘lockdown’ after a WHO team discovered an outbreak in a remote eastern district that had been largely hidden up to that point.
The disease is also spreading rapidly in western Sierra Leone, particularly in and around the capital, Freetown, and in the district surrounding Port Loko, a regional trade hub. Because of the intensifying crisis, some parts of Sierra Leone were even forced to cancel Christmas celebrations.
Nearly 18,500 people have been infected with Ebola and more than 6,800 have died from it since the outbreak began a year ago.
At a high-level meeting coordinated by the WHO last week, top health officials called on the international community to help Ebola-affected countries rebuild and strengthen their health systems so that they emerge from the current crisis more resilient and more focused on prevention efforts than before.
At the same time, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) announced an “expanded fight” against the Ebola virus in West Africa over the next six months.