TIME Infectious Disease

Ebola Crisis Intensifies as West Africa Struggles to Cope

John Moore—Getty Hanah Siafa lies with her daughter Josephine, 10, while hoping to enter the new Doctors Without Borders (MSF), Ebola treatment center on August 17, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia.

A humanitarian crisis is developing alongside the medical one, with over a million people in quarantined communities facing a lack of basic necessities

A lack of resources and chaotic conditions in West Africa are severely hampering efforts to contain the deadly Ebola outbreak.

More than 2,100 people have been infected — and 1,145 people died — in the five-month epidemic that has mainly hit Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. In order to limit the contagion, badly affected regions of Sierra Leone and Liberia have been quarantined, leaving over a million people facing a lack of food and other necessities.

“If sufficient medication, food and water are not in place, the [quarantined communities] will force their way out to fetch food and this could lead to further spread of the virus,” Tarnue Karbbar, a worker for Plan International in Liberia’s hard-hit Lofa County, told Reuters.

Another concern is that communities in the quarantined zone will be shunned and left to fend for themselves, like medieval towns ravaged by bubonic plague.

“Who is going to be the police officer who goes to these places?” said ActionAid U.K.’s head of humanitarian response, Mike Noyes, to Reuters. “There’s a risk that these places become plague villages.”

Emotions are running high, fueled in part by discontent with public officials, mistrust in medical facilities, and lack of knowledge about the disease. A protest at the admission of Ebola patients from other parts of the country to a makeshift clinic in Liberia’s capital, Monrovia, turned ugly on Saturday, with crowds attacking the facilities, looting contaminated mattresses and sending patients running. The Telegraph reports that protesters were shouting “There’s no Ebola.”

Relatives are also bringing back infected next-of-kin from health centers to die in their home villages, aggravating the risk of further spread of the virus, AFP reports.

Meanwhile, Doctors Without Borders opened a new clinic, intended to be its largest-ever Ebola treatment center, close to Monrovia on Sunday. The center that was raided on Saturday is also expected to reopen on Monday.

“I believe we will get all the [missing] patients back,” Samuel Tarplah, the nurse in charge of the center, told the New York Times.


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