The U.N. Ebola Emergency Response Mission will not fully meet its Dec. 1 target for containing the virus due to escalating numbers of cases in Sierra Leone, Anthony Banbury, the head of UNMEER, said on Monday.
The mission set the goal in September of having 70 percent of Ebola patients under treatment and 70 percent of victims safely buried. That target will be achieved in some areas, Banbury told Reuters, citing progress in Liberia.
"We are going to exceed the Dec 1 targets in some areas. But we are almost certainly going to fall short in others. In both those cases, we will adjust to what the circumstances are on the ground," he said in an interview.
The death toll in the worst Ebola epidemic on record has risen to 5,459 out of 15,351 cases identified in eight countries by Nov. 18, the World Health Organization said on Friday. Almost all those cases are in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
Banbury said the areas of greatest concern are in rural parts of Sierra Leone as well as the city of Makeni in the centre of the country and Port Loko in the northwest and the capital Freetown.
To combat rural cases, health workers need to deploy rapid response units complete with specialists and equipment that can be flown by helicopter to remote villages at the first sign of the disease's spread, he said.
UNMEER was set up to provide coordination, policy and logistics rather than to treat patients. It needs more resources to halt Ebola as quickly as possible but the emphasis now is on allocating existing resources in the smartest way, he said.
"Earlier decisions about the need for rapid construction of large ETU's (Ebola Treatment Centers) were taken in a certain context where that's what made sense .... Those efforts were to a large degree successful. But in the meantime the disease has spread," he said.
He said surveillance to prevent further cross-border spread of Ebola must be also improved, given the transmission from Guinea into Mali, where at least six people have died.
U.S. Brigadier General Frank Tate, deputy commanding general of U.S forces helping Liberia fight Ebola said on Monday there is a dramatic improvement in the country worst-hit by the outbreak.
Mali confirms eighth Ebola case, monitoring 271 people
Mali said on Monday that another person had tested positive for the Ebola virus, bringing the total number of cases in the West African nation to eight.
Mali is the sixth West African country to be hit by the worst outbreak on record of deadly hemorrhagic fever that has killed some 5,459 since the first case was recorded early this year in neighboring Guinea.
The Malian government did not provide further details about the new case and how the person contracted the disease, but it came after another case was confirmed on Saturday.
It said both cases were at an Ebola treatment centre.
The government said in a situation report that 271 people who may have come in contact with Ebola cases were being monitored.
Of the six previously known cases of the disease in Mali, all have died, the World Health Organization said on Friday.