UN warns Ebola still far from over

UNITED NATIONS, United States - The head of the UN Ebola mission warned Friday that the world was "far, far away" from beating the deadly outbreak and said a huge increase in aid was needed to fight the virus in Africa.

"There is a long battle ahead of us," Anthony Banbury told the UN Security Council, which met two months after it declared the outbreak a threat to world security.

Fighting the epidemic "is going to require a tremendous increase in resources on the ground, in a dispersed geographic area," said Banbury, head of the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) by videoconference.

While recognizing some progress, Banbury said international efforts had yet to gain the upper hand on the epidemic, with a new outbreak in Mali, where UNMEER will set up operations.

"We are far, far away from ending this crisis," he declared.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in Washington that if international efforts are stepped up, the Ebola outbreak can be contained by the middle of next year.

Recent data has shown a decline in cases in Liberia, the worst-hit country, and Guinea, but last week, 533 new cases were reported in Sierra Leone - the highest weekly tally since the outbreak began in that country.

"The fight is not only ongoing, but it is still tilting in Ebola's favor," warned US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power.

"The gains to date could easily be reversed," said Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who chaired the meeting on Ebola.

More health care workers needed

The US envoy, who traveled to Ebola-hit West Africa last month, said 1,000 international health care workers were needed on an ongoing basis and warned it was unclear the supply could be sustained "two months from now." "More countries need to send teams, and those that have already sent them must maintain a pipeline of trained replacements so that the supply can be replenished in the coming months," she said.

More than 5,000 people have died from Ebola and more than 15,000 have been infected.

The United Nations has been struggling to mobilize financial pledges and resources - medical equipment, doctors, nurses, health workers - to come to the aid of Ebola-hit countries, nearly one year after the outbreak.

The world body recently increased its appeal for $1 billion in pledges to $1.5 billion to defeat Ebola and the focus has shifted to providing aid to rural areas where the virus has spread.

The council adopted a statement calling on Ban to "accelerate efforts to scale up UNMEER's presence and activities" in rural areas.

It also drew a list of resources needed from member-states: mobile laboratories, field hospitals, trained personnel, therapies, vaccines, diagnostics and personal protective equipment.