TIME ebola

U.S. to Grant Temporary Protection Status for People From Ebola-Hit Nations in West Africa

Liberia Battles Spreading Ebola Epidemic
A mother and child stand atop their mattresses in a classroom now used as Ebola isolation ward on August 15, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia. John Moore—Getty Images

People from Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone who were in the U.S. as of Thursday

The United States will issue a temporary protected status to people residing in the country from the three nations hit hardest by the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, homeland security officials said in a report Thursday.

Reuters reports that people from Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone who were in the U.S. as of Thursday would be eligible for deportation protection for at least 18 months and could also apply for work permits. The 8,000 people estimated to be eligible will be unable to visit home and return in a bid to prevent more Ebola cases arriving in the U.S.

Any extension of the protection will be reassessed after 18 months based on how severe the Ebola outbreak remains in West Africa, the report adds. More than 5,000 people have died from the virus in the worst outbreak in recorded history, the World Health Organization reports.

Read more at Reuters

TIME ebola

Nearly Half of Liberia’s Workforce Is Out of a Job Since Ebola Crisis Began

Liberia is the hardest hit nation in the Ebola outbreak

Nearly half of Liberia’s working population at the beginning of the Ebola crisis is no longer doing so, according to a new report released Wednesday.

The West African nation has been the hardest hit in the regional outbreak, accounting for more than 7,000 cases and nearly 3,000 deaths, according to the World Health Organization. To measure the economic impact of that devastation, the World Bank, Liberian Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services and the Gallup Organization conducted phone surveys and found that not only is a massive part of the country’s work force out of job, but food insecurity is worsening.

Wage workers and the self-employed have taken the biggest hit, the report finds. Prior to the epidemic, more than 30% of working household breadwinners were self-employed, but now that rate is just above 10%. Many people lost jobs because their business or government offices closed.

Agricultural workers were significantly burdened at the start of the outbreak, too, since transportation routes were interrupted and people avoided large gathering spaces like markets, but the report shows Liberians are beginning to return to work as the harvest approaches.

Read the full report here.

TIME ebola

Woman’s Remains in New York Test Negative for Ebola

Nurses from the New York State Nurses Association protest for improved Ebola safeguards, part of a national day of action, in New York
Nurses from the New York State Nurses Association protest for improved Ebola safeguards, part of a national day of action, in New York City November 12, 2014. © Mike Segar—Reuters

She had arrived from Guinea about three weeks earlier

The remains of a woman in New York who died while under observation for potential Ebola exposure have tested negative for the virus, health officials said Wednesday.

The woman arrived from Guinea, one of the three nations hit hardest in the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, nearly three weeks ago and was being monitored out of “an abundance of caution” because her trip fell within the virus’ 21-day incubation period, the New York Times reports. She had shown no symptoms for the disease.

She was one of some 300 people being monitored by New York City as a potential case. The city’s sole diagnosed case to date, Dr. Craig Spencer, was successfully treated and released.

[NYT]

TIME ebola

Liberia Lifts Ebola State of Emergency

Liberian President Sirleaf And USAID Administrator Shah Hold Press Conference
Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf speaks at a press conference on October 14, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia. She met with Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende and USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah at her office at the Liberian Foreign Ministry. Sirleaf, winner of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, has called on the international community to do more to help combat the Ebola epidemic that has killed more than 4,400 people in West Africa, according to the World Health Organization, with roughly half of that total in Liberia. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images) John Moore—Getty Images

An estimated 2,800 people have died of the disease there

The President of Liberia said she would not extend a state of emergency on Thursday, amid encouraging signs that the spread of the deadly Ebola virus there has slowed.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s announcement effectively lifts the state of emergency, which had expired earlier this month, Reuters reports.

An estimated 2,800 people have died of the disease in Liberia, the hardest hit country in an outbreak that has claimed over 5,000 lives. But the rate of increase there appears to have slowed.

“Notwithstanding these gains, a number of our compatriots are still lying in ETUs (Ebola Treatment Units), hot-spots are springing up in rural areas, and a few more of our compatriots are still dying of Ebola,” Sirleaf said.

[Reuters]

TIME ebola

Ebola Treatment Clinical Trials to Start in West Africa

Experimental trials to find an Ebola treatment will begin next month in West Africa

An international health organization that has been leading the fight against the Ebola outbreak said Thursday that it will start experimental trials of treatments in West Africa next month.

MORE: Ebola death toll passes 5,000

There is currently no known cure for the virus, which has claimed at least 5,160 lives in the current epidemic. Doctors Without Borders, along with three different research partners from Belgium, France, and the U.K., will be leading the trials, which will test two antiviral drugs in Guinea and an unconfirmed location. The third trial in Guinea’s capital, Conakry, will use the blood of recovered Ebola patients to treat sick patients.

The World Health Organization and regional health authorities are also collaborating with the research partners.

Conducting clinical trials during a humanitarian crisis is unprecedented but MSF and partners have set up the trials with exceptional speed in an attempt to quell an outbreak with a fatality rate of around 70%.

MORE: Republicans grill Obama officials on Ebola funding request

“We need to keep in mind that there is no guarantee that these therapies will be the miracle cure” says Dr Annick Antierens, coordinating Doctor Without Borders’ investigational partnerships. “But we need to do all we can to try the products available today to increase the chances of finding an effective treatment against Ebola.”

The trials are expected to begin in December and initial results could be available as early as February 2015.

TIME ebola

Ebola Death Toll Surpasses 5,000 Worldwide

A team transports a corpse for burial near an Ebola treatment center in Suakoko, Liberia, Oct. 5, 2014.
A team transports a corpse for burial near an Ebola treatment center in Suakoko, Liberia, Oct. 5, 2014. Daniel Berehulak—The New York Times/Redux

The latest update from the World Health Organization presents a mixed picture of the fight to contain the worst outbreak of Ebola on record

More than 5,000 people have died from the Ebola virus, marking a macabre waypost that coincides with the disease’s return to Mali and a pickup in its spread in Sierra Leone, according to a status update released Wednesday by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Ebola has killed 5,160 out of 14,098 people infected across eight countries, according to the group’s most recent update, which presents an uncertain stage — dented with disappointments but also peaked with some bright points — in its effort to bring the Ebola outbreak under control.

In one hopeful sign, the rate of Ebola transmission is no longer increasing at a national level in Guinea and Liberia, though some areas of both countries are still seeing an escalation.

Yet Sierra Leone, where 1,169 people have died, continues to weather “steep increases” in the number of cases, says the WHO. Some 421 new cases were reported in the nation in just one week in November alone.

And in Mali, which was thought to be Ebola-free after an infected toddler died there in October, at least one person has recently died from the virus, while two deaths are suspected to have also been from Ebola, according to the update. One of the suspected cases, a grand imam, was buried after a “ritual washing” and a funeral assembly attended by “many mourners,” the WHO says.

Meanwhile, the WHO has received just 49% of the $260 million it deems necessary to handle the Ebola outbreak, according to the group’s latest figures. Though an additional 15% of the total amount has been pledged to the organization, it is still wanting for 36% of the required sum.

Out of 4,611 hospital beds planned for Ebola treatment centers in the three hardest-hit West African nations, just 24% are operational, and only 4% of the some 2,636 beds planned for community care centers have been set up. Just 38% of the 370 or so burial teams the WHO plans to train are good to go.

Still, all districts in the affected countries are within 24-hour access of a laboratory clinic, and some 95% of people the WHO is monitoring for possible exposure are receiving daily communications, the organization says.

Read next: Ebola Treatment Clinical Trials to Start in West Africa

TIME Economy

U.S. Asks IMF to Write-Off Ebola-Hit Countries’ Debt

US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew gives a joint press conferece with Egyptian finance minister Hany Dimian (unseen) at the Egyptian Ministry of Finance in Cairo on Oct. 27, 2014.
US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew gives a joint press conferece with Egyptian finance minister Hany Dimian (unseen) at the Egyptian Ministry of Finance in Cairo on Oct. 27, 2014. Hassan Ammar—AFP/Getty Images

A debt cancellation twice as large was approved by the IMF for Haiti in 2010

The Feds proposed Tuesday that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) cancel roughly $100 million in debt owed by Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, which have been hit hardest in the current Ebola outbreak.

Collectively, the three countries owe $372 million to the IMF. U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said in a statement to Reuters that eliminating $100 million of that would strengthen the nations’ economies as they struggle to recover from the devastating effects of the virus, which has killed thousands.

“The International Monetary Fund has already played a critical role as a first responder, providing economic support to countries hardest hit by Ebola,” Lew wrote. “Today we are asking the IMF to expand that support by providing debt relief for Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea.”

Treasury officials said the $100 million may be drawn from the IMF’s natural disaster debt relief fund. The fund was first used to cancel Haiti’s outstanding $268 million of debt owed to the IMF after the 2010 Haitian earthquake, the IMF said.

Without significant intervention in the Ebola outbreak, West Africa could lose up to 4% of annual growth and $25.2 billion of GDP by 2015, according to the World Bank.

[Reuters]

TIME ebola

Morocco Won’t Host the Africa Cup Amid Ebola Fears

Nigeria v Burkina Faso - 2013 Africa Cup of Nations Final
John Obi Mikel celebrates holding the trophy during the 2013 Orange African Cup of Nations Final match between Nigeria and Burkina Faso from the National Stadium in Johannesburg on Feb. 10, 2013. Lefty Shivambu—Gallo Images/Getty Images

Organizers have disqualified the country in response to its refusal

Morocco will not be hosting the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations after being removed by organizers due to the country’s Ebola fears.

Morocco had a deadline of Nov. 8 to confirm whether it would host the soccer tournament, and instead, the country asked for the tournament to be postponed. The Confederation of African Football (CAF), which organizes the event, refused Morocco’s request on Tuesday, and has insisted that the tournament will start on schedule, kicking off Jan. 17.

“Following the refusal of the Moroccan party, the Executive Committee has decided that the national team of Morocco is automatically disqualified and will not take part in the 30th edition of the Orange Africa Cup of Nations in 2015,” CAF wrote in a statement. A new host has not been identified, but CAF says it’s received “some applications” from other countries wanting to host the competition.

The move comes amid growing fear and stigma of the Ebola outbreak which is affecting Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. Sierra Leone’s soccer team was hailed with chants of “Ebola, Ebola” while playing in games in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Cameroon, and the team has been forced to stay in hotels with no other guests, the New York Times reports.

Ebola is only spread through direct contact with bodily fluids of an affected person, and individuals are not contagious until they start showing symptoms.

 

TIME ebola

Ebola’s Other Toll: Food On the Table

People draw water in the West Point neighborhood, where many people have died from Ebola, in Monrovia, Liberia on Oct. 17, 2014.
People draw water in the West Point neighborhood, where many people have died from Ebola, in Monrovia, Liberia on Oct. 17, 2014. John Moore—Getty Images

Liberian families are feeling the pressures of food insecurity, and are eating less.

Eighty-five percent of households in Liberia are eating fewer meals a day as a way to deal with lower incomes and higher prices related to the Ebola epidemic, according to a new report from the global humanitarian agency Mercy Corps.

Most households are also reducing the amount they’re eating at each meal, and report supplementing with lower-quality and cheaper food. When asked in surveys about household priorities, Liberians listed food as their most urgent need even before health care and clothing. A variety of factors are playing into Liberian families’ inability to get food on the table, including restrictions on transportation and lack of quality products at local markets.

One of the major industries hit by the Ebola outbreak in the three countries affected by the outbreak is agriculture, which is a dominating industry in Liberia. Other Liberians lost incomes due to protocols put in place to contain the virus, like closing schools. Teachers employed by the government still receive salaries, but private school teachers do not.

Decrease in number of household income earners MercyCorps

About 63% of households also reported an increase in expenses since a state of emergency was declared in August. Liberians used to rely on cross-border trade with Guinea and Sierra Leone, but the epicenter of the outbreak was the very area around shared borders. Now, all imports have shifted to Monrovia, putting pressure on supply chains and prices. But vendors in local markets estimate a 52% reduction in their number of customers each day, since large gathering of people has been discouraged.

“If attention is not paid to the economic impact of the crisis, the situation will continue to deteriorate over the coming months,” the report reads.

Mercy Corps says it plans to help farmers by offering cash transfers, emergency food assistance, and aid in goods transport. Working with the local government to improve transportation conditions while maintaining tight Ebola protocols is another way to increase both incomes and food availability. However, bigger initiatives have to start now in order to ensure the current food crisis is temporary. For instance, the upcoming planting season needs to continue on schedule and there needs to be a greater assessment of the whole region’s transportation system.

If action isn’t taken soon, the impact on the country’s economy and food system after the outbreak could be devastating.

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