Sierra Leone seeks $18m to Ebola epidemic

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FREETOWN (AFP) – Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma appealed to the international community on Tuesday for help filling an $18 million (13 million euro) shortfall in funding to battle the Ebola epidemic devastating the country.

The impoverished state has been hit hardest by the outbreak sweeping across west Africa, with 730 cases of the deadly haemorrhagic fever, more than any other nation.

“The total that needs to be covered is $25.9 million. We have so far received commitments of $7.6 million. We have a gap of $18.2 million,” the president said.

Koroma announced a raft of measures as part of a state of emergency in July, including quarantining Ebola-hit eastern districts and cancelling foreign trips by ministers.

The move came in response to a spike in cases of infection by the virus, which has killed more than 1,000 people in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia and Nigeria since the start of the year.

Koroma told a news conference in Freetown the funding was needed for a “national response plan” providing non-medical staff such as safe burial teams, educators, and investigators tracing people who may have had contact with patients.

The appeal came a day after after Koroma blasted Western nations for their “slow response” to the crisis.

“I am disappointed at the international community in their delay in responding (to) the fight against the deadly Ebola virus in Sierra Leone, he was quoted as saying in a statement from the presidency.

He revealed he had appealed for United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon to intervene over the funding crisis.

“We have not been provided with enough equipment, resources, qualified health officers, and we have lost the only expert we had in the country to the disease,” the president told a meeting at the World Health Organization’s office in Freetown.

He was referring to Umar Khan, the country’s sole virologist, who died of Ebola virus disease in July after saving the lives of more than 100 patients.

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