Category Archives: Community

EbolaWatch: Devastation, aid, labor, & politics


We begin today’s compendium with a stunning graphic from the World Bank, revealing the extent of the devastation the disease has wrought to one country’s working class:

BLOG Ebola jobless

From the News in Monrovia, Liberia, critical context:

‘Dumpsite Food’ Eaters

Residents of a community outside Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, known as ‘Own your Own’ are said to be surviving on food from dump sites in the county.

The area is where Arcelormittal and other concession companies are operating. These companies dispose spoiled foods in the dump sites just opposite the Ebola Treatment Unit constructed by the United States Government.

Some of the citizens and residents who spoke to our reporter said the dump site has been their source for food for the past seven years.

Our reporter who recently returned from the county said most of the citizens using the dump site for survival are women and children.

Meanwhile, returning American sailors smile through quarantine, via the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

Seabees’ morale high despite long Ebola quarantine, congressman says

There were no hugs or handshakes just in case Ebola germs lurked, but Rep. Steven Palazzo found 15 Navy Seabees from Mississippi in “good spirits” Friday as they waited out a 21-day isolation period at Virginia’s Langley Air Force Base after a seven-week stint building treatment facilities in disease-ravaged Liberia.

“Everybody had a smile on his face,” Palazzo said.

The Seabees “were nowhere near any of the Ebola victims or the medical personnel that were treating them” while working in Monrovia and even had “limited involvement” with Liberians in the community who had been found free of the disease, he said.

While Reuters covers critical quarantine questions:

US quarantine moves hurting Ebola response in Africa -Harvard

Moves by some U.S. states to isolate medical workers returning from fighting Ebola in West Africa could worsen the global health crisis by discouraging badly needed new volunteers, according to health experts at Harvard University.

Ebola has killed more than 5,450 people in West Africa since March in the disease’s worst outbreak on record, striking hardest in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, which are among the world’s least developed countries.

“By far and away what is needed most in West Africa are care providers who can help,” Paul Biddinger, director of the Harvard School of Public Health Emergency Preparedness Program, said during a panel discussion about the disease on Tuesday.

But “because of a fear of stigma, of being involuntarily quarantined … people don’t want to necessarily subject themselves to this, and that is tragic.”

From Agence France-Presse, a video about a video:

African celebrities in Ebola campaign video

Program notes:

African celebrities have called for action against Ebola in a video produced by the ONE Campaign.

Next, a warning from the United Nations Development Program:

Ebola crisis may result in more hunger: UNDP study

Wild price swings caused by the Ebola health crisis are making it more difficult for households to feed themselves and make a stable living, according to a new study by the UN development programme.

“Border closures, movement restrictions and a slowdown in farming activity are shaking food  markets badly,” said Ayodele Odusola, Chief Economist at the Regional Bureau for Africa of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

“This could have a disastrous impact on households, both because farmers are unable to make a living and because families are finding very different prices on the local market from one day to the next. People living in rural and remote areas are feeling the impact of reduced purchasing power more than their urban counterparts,” he added.

Since the onset of the Ebola crisis, buying power went down by 20 percent in Sierra Leone and by more than 25 percent in Liberia. The study also found rural communities were worst affected, due to more expensive transport costs and dependency on declining farming incomes.  Reduced traffic has been observed in more than two-thirds of Liberia’s counties, for instance.

As a result, in October, Monrovians paid $17.5 for 25 kilograms of rice, while people in the Southeast paid $21.3 for the same quantity. Because Liberia and Sierra Leone depend on Guinea for food imports, their situation is particularly serious.

PCWorld covers another development:

Ebola speeds up educators’ embrace of tech in Sierra Leone, Liberia

The deadly Ebola outbreak has sparked some creative thinking among academic institutions and private education initiatives determined to reach out to students who have been hunkering down for months in Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Faced with a raging epidemic, the University of Sierra Leone plans to upload lecture notes on its website, send learning material through email and engage students through social media platforms like Whatsapp and Facebook. The 2014/2015 session, which should have begun Oct. 1, was postponed due to the Ebola outbreak.

Sierra Leone is one of the countries worst hit by the disease, which has already claimed over 5,000 lives in West Africa. Just last week, Sierra Leone recorded 435 new confirmed cases of Ebola and 110 confirmed deaths.

On to Mali with the Associated Press:

Mali confirms eighth Ebola case

Mali has confirmed a new case of Ebola, bringing to eight the number of people who have fallen ill with the deadly disease in the West African country.

A government statement issued Monday night said the patient had been placed in a treatment center.

All of Mali’s Ebola cases can be traced back to a 70-year-old imam who was brought to the country from Guinea, where the epidemic first began.

Six of Mali’s eight Ebola patients have died. The government said Saturday that another patient who tested positive was also receiving treatment and had been isolated.

From Voice of America’s TV2Africa, a video report on the course of the disease in Mali:

Mali Ebola

Program notes:

Almost a month after a 70-year-old Guinean Imam sought treatment at a clinic in Bamako, Mali is scrambling to stop a potential outbreak. Five people have died so far. A sixth related Ebola case was confirmed Saturday. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.

On to Liberia, first with FrontPageAfrica and another campaign launched:

Initiative Spearheads Setting up of Ebola Force on Reducing Denial

UNDP /Ministry of Health Community Based Initiative in the West Point Community District #4, has organized a meeting with the elder Council, the new Commissioner and the youth of West Point.

The meeting was part of efforts by Active Case Finders and Contact Tracers of West Point to facilitate the establishment of an Ebola Task Force to help mitigate the resurging denial of the Ebola Virus, stigma, and hiding of the sick.

An earlier meeting held with the elder council indicated that the people of West Point were hiding their sick because it was popularly believed that those who went to the ETUs never came back to their families. As a way of dispelling this belief, Active Case Finders providing services in the Community, identified 12 survivors from the West Point Community and presented them to the elder council.

The Inquirer covers a return:

Catholic Hosp. Reopens

The St. Joseph Catholic Hospital yesterday opened its doors to the public following months of closure as a result of the deadly Ebola virus outbreak which victimized a number of medical staff and missionaries.

The hospital’s re-opening was attended by a number of international Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs), the Catholic Church in Liberia and the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare.

The Human Resources Manager of the hospital, Mr. Joel N. Williams said the hospital attended to 23 patients yesterday but did not admit any because the reopening process will be carried out on a gradual basis.

Mr. Williams said the hospital is beginning its operations on a gradual basis by first reopening its Maternity ward with eight beds which will be increased on a weekly basis with the sponsorship of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

From the NewDawn, laying down the law:

MoH issues Ebola regulations

The Government of Liberia through the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare has set up anti-Ebola regulations to govern all citizens irrespective of status or affiliation.

Outgoing Health Minister, Dr. Walter T. Gwenigale, has mandated that all video clubs, night clubs or restaurants should have chlorinated water placed at the entrances of those businesses for hands washing, and everyone’s temperature should be taken, stressing that anyone with 37.5 degree Celsius should be denied entrance and considered an Ebola suspect.

Minister Gwenigale has also instructed that vehicles in Liberia should continue to carry three persons at the back seat until Ebola is eradicated here. He said no community should allow visitors from various counties, especially when the person is sick, adding that if any community has such case, it should be reported to community leaders, who will immediately inform health authorities.

From FrontPageAfrica, another hot zone:

Ebola Hotspot: Rural Rivercess Towns Ravaged by Virus Outbreak

Deplorable roads, lack of food and adequate awareness are massive challenges affecting efforts to contain the deadly Ebola virus that has killed more than 13 persons in Kinkayah Chiefdom, Nyorwein Administrative District in Rivercess County.

Residents in the area where authorities of the county have quarantined since the virus surfaced killing 13 people told FrontPage Africa they desperately need food in other to have the quarantine remain in force and at the same time support efforts to contain the virus in the area.

“Since the outbreak on October 21, the people abandon their farms and the whole chiefdom is being quarantine and there’s no food for them,” Augustus T. Yarpah, Speaker of the County Traditional council told FPA. He said MSF is doing well for the quarantine communities by giving treatment to people who are sick, but one of the problems is the lack of food for people in the whole of Kinkayah (Kayah for short) chiefdom especially in Gozohn Town.

After the jump, more from Liberia, including an instance of either irrationality or crime, good news from one region, quarantine for a banker, and the World Bank boosts its emergency funds to Monrovia, then on to Sierra Leone and quarantine regulation, emergency workers stage a gruesome job action and retribution follows, Nigerian medics head to Freetown, the extra burden faced by disabled students, and a crucial diagnosis is made. . . Continue reading

MexicoWatch: Bodies, politics, prison, & protests


Today’s post begins and ends with bodies, first in the form of a teleSUR English report on the latest DNA results from mass graves found in the region where the 43 missing college students disappeared:

Mexico: Forensic experts haven’t found remains of Ayotzinapa students

Program notes:

In Mexico, the Argentine team of forensic experts issued a statement in which it reported having identified the bodies of three people from an unmarked grave. However, none of those bodies belong to the students of the Ayotzinapa Rural Teacher Training College who are reported missing since September 26.

From teleSUR, motivation:

Mexican Students Want President to Resign, and Stability

Students respond to Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto after he said that protests are seeking to “destabilize” his government. They say, actually they want stability.

A group of graduate students from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) released a video Tuesday in response to recent statements by President Enrique Peña Nieto, who claimed that behind the protests to demand justice for the disappearance of 43 students of Ayotzinapa are groups trying to destabilize his government.

“They say that students want to destabilize the country. No Enrique, we want to stabilize the country,” said one of the students in a four-minute video that was uploaded on the YouTube channel of the UNAM General Assembly of Graduate Students.

They also added that this is a response to the president’s threats to use police force to repress social protests.

Reuters covers hints of a draconian crackdown to come:

Mexico’s embattled government poised to unveil law and order measures

Following mass protests in Mexico over the apparent massacre of 43 trainee teachers two months ago, the government will unveil measures this week designed to improve policing and fix a failing justice system, lawmakers said on Tuesday.

Senate leader Miguel Barbosa of the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution said the measures would focus on issues like streamlining the chain of command in the police as well as improving the penal system and access to justice.

The government would present the plans on Thursday, Barbosa said in an interview with Mexican radio.

Ricardo Pacheco, a lawmaker in the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party who heads the justice committee in the lower house of Congress, said the plan was to give the state greater powers to combat organized crime and violence.

More from the Latin American Herald Tribune:

Missing Case Forces Mexican President to Make “Important Announcement”

With the missing students crisis getting out of hand and due to the resulting embarrassment in the international arena, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto is to make an “important announcement” about the restoration of legality in the country, a senior government official has announced.

“The president will have to take decisions on what has not worked, on what has to be replaced and changed. He will make an important announcement this same week,” Government Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio said Monday.

However, he did not provide further details about the announcement but said that it would be made by Thursday, and would deal with areas where there are concerns, especially regarding municipalities.

Allegations raised, via the Guardian:

Mexican authorities accused of persecuting peaceful protesters

  • Eleven demonstrators charged with attempted murder and riot after mass protest in capital over disappearance of 43 students

Human rights groups have accused Mexican authorities of using arbitrary detentions, trumped-up charges and excessive force in an attempt to quell a mass protest movement unleashed by the disappearance and presumed murder of 43 students.

The complaints centre on the indictment for attempted murder, criminal association and rioting of 11 protesters who were arrested after masked youths clashed with police in the central Zócalo square, following a huge and mostly peaceful march through the capital last Thursday.

Supporters of the 11 accused insist that they had nothing to do with the violence, alleging that several of the detainees were arrested later, during an aggressive police operation to disperse the crowd.

More from teleSUR:

Mexico’s Human Rights Chief Investigating Protest Arrests

The president of Mexico’s National Commission of Human Rights said the agency will investigate claims of police abuse during detentions at the #NOV20 protest.

The president of Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), Luis Raul Gonzalez Perez, said the agency is opening an investigation into the arrests and possible excessive use of police force during a protest November 20 in Mexico City’s Zocalo Square calling for the return alive of the disappeared 43 Ayotzinapa students.

“We are opening the relevant investigation, from the beginning we had staff in the Attorney General’s office as well as staff in the different high security prisons. Staff have been with those detained we have given them a medical review,” he said.

The country’s newly-minted ombudsman, who has been in office for a little over 10 days, made his comments in an interview after giving the opening address to the “Truth and Justice Commissions: Lessons Learned for a Post Ayotzinapa Mexico” forum held at the Mexico City campus of the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education.

Continuing protests, again via teleSUR:

Hundreds March for #20NovMx Protest Detainees

  • The lawyer of the student detainees accused the government of committing state terrorism

Mexican society has gained a new reason to protest peacefully: the 11 students who were arrested by police last Thursday, accused with various serious charges after participating in the #20NovMx protest for the missing 43.

Hundreds of people marched on Tuesday from the Independence Angel to the Zocalo Square in Mexico City, to demand the national government release the detainees, who are being accused of terrorism and attempted murder, among other charges.

The demonstrators, mostly students, assert that their mates were illegally arrested on the night of November 20, when both local and federal riot police agents dispersed a peaceful demonstration in Zocalo square that was interrupted by a few people in balalcavas or bandanas who threw molotov bombs at the police.

And from teleSUR yet again:

Mexico: 11 Ayotzinapa Protesters Arrested Are Denied Bail

The eleven individuals arrested after the march of November 20 on Mexico city are charged with serious offenses, although the state’s evidence against them is blurry

The eleven detainees on the Mexico city central Zocalo square incidents after November 20 demonstration for the missing Ayotzinapa students were debriefed on Monday at the 17 district court of the southeastern state of Veracruz and denied bail due to the charges against them, considered as serious offenses: attempted homicide.

On November 29 the period for clearing their legal situation ends, that’s why the eleven indicted people asked for an extension of the constitutional term. Two separate NGOs denounced that the arrested were mistreated, tortured and charged without evidence of their misdemeanors.

The detainees complained to Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) for alleged acts of physical violence and mistreatment during their transport to the Republic’s General Attorney (PGR) facilities and later to Federal Prisons, where they remain held.

From Reuters, aiding and abetting:

Mired in crisis, Mexican president aided by discredited opposition

The leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution, or PRD, has campaigned against human rights abuses in the past but its reputation is in tatters because the Iguala mayor who allegedly ordered the students’ abduction was one if its own.

And the horrific events – the government says the drug gang apparently killed all of the students and incinerated their bodies – unfolded in Guerrero state, which the PRD governs.

Mexico’s most successful leftist, former PRD leader Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, has also been sidelined in the uproar because of ties between Morena, the party he formed after leaving the PRD, and the same mayor.

On the right, the National Action Party (PAN), is hamstrung by bitter infighting, allegations that senior lawmakers peddled favors in exchange for illegal payments, and accusations by supporters that it sold out to Pena Nieto in Congress.

In short, the whole political class is in disrepute, said Ernesto Ruffo, an independent-minded PAN Senator.

And the McClatchy Foreign Staff covers a credibility chasm:

Few believe Mexico’s first lady made enough as TV star to pay for mansion

Mexico’s first lady, soap opera star Angelica Rivera, is back in the spotlight. But rather than receiving public adulation, she’s the subject of ridicule.

A poll released over the weekend found that three-quarters of Mexicans think Rivera isn’t telling the truth about how much she earned during her television career and how she paid for a $7 million mansion that’s at the heart of a political scandal enveloping her husband, President Enrique Pena Nieto.

Among those scoffing at Rivera are fellow television actors, who contend she never pulled in the kind of money she claims.

Political analysts and columnists say the attention on Rivera, whose fame soared with a hit 2007 soap opera, was designed to take the heat off Pena Nieto himself.

From Frontera NorteSur, solidarity at the border:

Ayotzinapa Protests: Report from Ciudad Juarez

On a day when the world protested state violence against the Mexican students of the Ayotzinapa rural teachers college, Ciudad Juarez was no exception.

In the big border city across from El Paso, Texas, the November 20 protest- timed to coincide with the official holiday anniversary of the 1910 Mexican Revolution- produced multiple street protests, the seizure of a highway toll booth, a brief blockade of the Santa Fe Bridge connecting Juarez with El Paso, and poetry brigades.  A large multi-media event was staged at the Autonomous University of Ciudad Juarez (UACJ), where normal activities were suspended for November 20 so students and staff could take a public stand on the human rights crisis gripping their nation.

Hundreds of students, teachers, union activists and community members got involved in local events organized for what became known as N20.  In virtually unprecedented fashion, some Mexican cities canceled the official November 20 annual parades due to government fears of the mounting protests, but the one in Ciudad Juarez proceeded as scheduled- albeit with the addition of protesters who managed to squeeze their way into the end of the parade, according to Diana Solis, UACJ student and member of the activist University Assembly.

“The people are participating. Many people came out to support,” Solis said. “This is unstoppable. The government is worried.”

And from Al Jazeera America, other violence:

Violence against women soars in Mexico

  • Abductions, rapes and murders of women are higher than ever, as UN calls for end to femicide

Violence against women must stop, United Nations chief Ban Ki-Moon said Tuesday — the International Day to End Violence Against Women — as it was reported that 14 of the 25 countries with the highest rates of femicide are located in Latin America.

In Mexico, over a dozen female torture victims echoed Ban’s alarm. Members of the group “Break the Silence,” which aims at raise awareness of what it calls the government’s systematic use of sexual violence, said that despite countless cases, there have only been two federal convictions for torture of women in the country’s history, Mexican news website Animal Politico reported.

The numbers of abductions, rapes, and murders of women are higher in Mexico than ever before, with an average of seven women killed violently every day, according to local media. In July, U.N. special rapporteur on violence against women, Rashida Manjoo, said that Mexican women suffer from multiple and intersecting forms of violence, ranging from militarization as part of the so-called war on drugs, to impunity among security forces, to impediments to women seeking access to justice.

And to close, a body count from teleSUR:

Over 500 Bodies Found in Guerrero Mass Graves so Far

  • So far, up to 500 bodies have been found in mass graves in the state of Guerrero alone

Tomaz Zeron, head of the Criminal Investigation Agency, said that the forensic experts are continuing their work at the mass graves siates located by Guerrero’s Union of Commoners and Organizations (Upoeg). On Monday, Zeron told press that two graves were analyzed and one of them was determined to contain a corpse, dated back from more than a year ago.

Also on Monday, Upoeg stated that so far, up to 500 bodies have been found in the state of Guerrero alone. In a press conference, the group’s spokesperson, Bruno Placido, a spokesman for the group, said his organization has been issuing warnings since 2013, however the PGR only began to act well after the disappearance of the Ayotzinapa students began to garner global attention.

In the Mexican southwestern state of Guerrero, the Republic’s General Attorney (PGR) recieves every report from the Upoeg on a new mass grave, investigating them as separate cases from those connected to the incidents of September 26, when 43 students from the Ayotzinapa Teacher’s Training School were disappeared after being abducted by local police and handed over to a local criminal organization.

EbolaWatch: Politics, aid, fears, & deadlines


We begin with an interesting story from the New York Times:

Notable Absence of New Ebola Quarantines at New York Area Airports

A day after a doctor who had returned from Guinea about a week earlier became New York’s first Ebola case, the governors of New York and New Jersey announced that they would begin quarantining travelers who had been in contact with Ebola patients in West Africa.

The move, which went beyond federal policy, drew protests from medical aid groups and the Obama administration, who said it would penalize people who were trying to contain Ebola and discourage others from doing so.

But since Kaci Hickox, a nurse, flew into Newark’s airport on Oct. 24 and was kept at a hospital for three days, no one else has been caught up in the quarantine dragnet at the New York and New Jersey airports.

The absence of quarantines is striking, not only because both governors emphatically defended the policy as a necessary precaution, but also because most people returning from Ebola-stricken countries arrive in the United States through Kennedy and Newark Liberty International Airports. Several aid organizations have American health care workers in West Africa, a handful of whom return every week. But New York and New Jersey officials say no one coming through the two airports since Ms. Hickox has reported direct contact with Ebola patients.

From the Associated Press, another European patient evacuated:

Italian doctor with Ebola returning for treatment

An Italian doctor who has been working in Sierra Leone has tested positive for the Ebola virus and is being transferred to Rome for treatment, the health ministry said Monday. It is Italy’s first confirmed case of Ebola.

The doctor, who was not identified and who works for the non-governmental organization Emergency, is scheduled to arrive overnight in Italy for treatment at the Lazzaro Spallanzani National Institute for Infectious Diseases in Rome.

Health Minister Beatrice Lorenzin said in a statement that the doctor experienced a fever and other symptoms overnight, but he was well enough to eat breakfast and drink beverages. The ministry said all measures are being taken to ensure the safe transport of the patient following biohazard protocols.

From the Associated Press, anticipation of cash registers ringing [or beeping, or booping, or whatever]:

Merck, Iowa firm sign Ebola vaccine licensing deal

Merck & Co., one of the world’s top developers and sellers of vaccines, has entered a partnership with a small drug developer to research and manufacture a potential Ebola vaccine now in initial patient testing.

The exclusive deal involves a vaccine candidate called rVSV-EBOV that’s under early development by BioProtection Systems, the vaccine-development subsidiary of NewLink Genetics Corp. of Ames, Iowa.

The vaccine was originally created in labs of the Public Health Agency of Canada, which in 2010 signed a deal giving BioProtection Systems an exclusive license for the vaccine and the technology involved in producing it.

Under the new deal, Merck, based in Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, gets exclusive rights to the vaccine and any follow-up products.

On to Africa, starting in Mali with Voice of America:

Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms.

Mali is scrambling to do the same now, almost a month after a 70-year-old Guinean imam sought treatment at a clinic in Bamako. Five people have already died. Mali confirmed a sixth related Ebola case Saturday; a female relative of a nurse who treated the imam.

Every day, twice a day, teams are checking just over 300 people around Bamako. All of these contacts are linked to the Guinean imam who died of Ebola at a private clinic October 27, two days after he had arrived for treatment.

From the U.N. News Center, the U.N. acts:

Top UN health officials take joint mission to Mali in support of Ebola response

The Executive Director of Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), Michel Sidibé and the Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr. Margaret Chan, have visited Mali in a joint mission to support the country in its efforts to curb the spread of Ebola, as authorities there announced one new case and that two more suspected patients were being tested.

“The next 15 days are critical for ending Ebola in Mali,” where at least 5 people have died from the virus, UNAIDS said in a press release issued today. “The coordination of action and strategic communication are key to success, as are immediate international funding and technical assistance.”

The UN is ramping up support on many fronts to support both the preparedness and response efforts of the Malian Government, including with the announcement on Friday by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) would establish an office in the country. That office is scheduled to formally open an office in Mali on Wednesday.

Next, on to Liberia with FrontPageAfrica and a shocking allegation:

Ebola Stigma at Firestone: Orphans Thrown to Wolves – An Inhumane Act By A Heartless Company

A DAILY MAIL report suggesting that the Tyre giant Firestone has ordered the children of workers who died from Ebola to leave their homes on its plantation in Liberia is very troubling.

ACCORDING TO THE REPORT, Firestone which is part of the Bridgestone group which last week announced sales for the first nine months of the year totaling £14.5 billion – has told the families they cannot stay on in worker housing and will not get pensions. “At least 57 people have died on Firestone’s giant plantation near the national capital Monrovia since the start of the outbreak in March,” according to the report.

FIRESTONE, like most expatriate and concession companies abandoned Liberia at the height of the outbreak, leaving behind families and workers who labored the plantation in search of rubber which the company then export for profits.

IT IS SAD THAT a company as large as Firestone would throw children in the streets after surviving such a horrific virus.

Next, from the News in Monrovia, police preparations:

Police Ready To Enforce Anti-Ebola Regulations

The Liberia National Police is said to be gearing up for robust enforcement of the government’s anti Ebola and other safety regulations during the pending special senatorial election.

Police Director Chris Massaquoi said the LNP has been ordered to ensure the enforcement of the Ministry of Health and National Elections Commission (NEC) regulations during the election.

Speaking Friday at the Ministry of Information regular press briefing in Monrovia, Director Massaquoi said pursuant to the power granted the Ministry of Health under the Public Health Law, the police will also ensure that all beaches in Liberia remain closed during holidays.

He called on parents, religious leaders and others to warn their children and relatives against going to beaches during holidays.

The LNP Director also stated that except for the political campaign rallies, all public rallies, demonstrations and gathering in public areas will be strictly prohibited until Liberia is declared Ebola free.

However, Director Massaquoi said all political campaign rallies are expected to also be held in keeping with the guidelines and regulations of NEC and the Ministry of Health.

Reuters covers an upbeat assessment:

“Dramatic improvement” in Ebola outlook in Liberia -U.S. general

A U.S. general in the force helping Liberia fight the Ebola epidemic reported on Monday a dramatic improvement in the situation there and confirmed the cancellation of two planned treatment facilities.

Brigadier General Frank Tate, deputy commanding general of U.S. Operation United Assistance, said the drop in the number of cases in the country was all the more encouraging given recent improvements in reporting capacity.

He said new daily cases have fallen to around 20 from close to 80 when the operation was announced in September. Ebola is still spreading in other parts of West Africa.

While FrontPageAfrica covers a contrarian view:

‘Wishful Thinking’: Politics & Ebola Dampens Ebola End by X-Mas

U.S. Ambassador to Liberia, Deborah Malac’s description of Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s goal of eradicating Ebola by Christmas as “Wishful Thinking”, heralds a key challenge many health experts fear could keep the virus around for quite some time, especially for those contemplating voting in a time of Ebola.

That goal is being compounded by an upcoming senatorial election, many say would be a crucial test of the government’s message against Ebola and Liberia’s reaching a turning point in the outbreak: Avoiding touching, kissing and a large gathering of people can be a hard sell for a nation historically noted for daring conventions.

At the headquarters of the opposition Congress for Democratic Change last Thursday, for example, it was hard not to notice partisans and supporters of senatorial candidates hugging and holding hands as sweat poured amid the celebration.

And StarAfrica covers worrisome numbers:

Liberia: Resurgence of Ebola in Bong County

Reports from central Bong County say the county health team has reported 22 new cases of Ebola over a period of one week, despite huge reduction in the number of cases across the country.Media reports Monday quote the Bong County Health Team Administrator Fatorma Jusu as saying 10 of the 22 cases are confirmed, one probable and eleven suspected.

Jusu attributed the emergence of new Ebola cases in the county to the outbreak in Taylor-ta that has now crossed over to Bomota and Gbatala, all of which are adjacent to Taylor-Ta in Yelequelleh District, Bong County.

Addressing the regular Ebola response Taskforce briefing Monday on Phebe Compound on the outskirts of the provincial capital, Gbarnga, Jusu attributed the new outbreak to the breach of quarantine rules by residents of Taylor-ta, and stressed the need for urgent redress of the situation.

After the jump, a new aid shipment arrives, new treatment centers — one American-built, the other Chinese — open, an economic lament, fears of another flare-up, reintegrating the healed in healing roles, journalists’ ethics challenged, a chief calls on fellows chiefs to join the Ebola fight, American medical missionaries lauded, then on to Sierra Leone where a worsening epidemic thwarts a U.N. goal, a mayor makes a plea, plus a bitter harvest. . . Continue reading

MexicoWatch: Enabling, outrage, action, images


We open with a graphic from Boligan.com, via Babybat, depicting the plight of justice in Mexico:

BLOG Ayotzinapa

Enabling, via Al Jazeera America:

US policies in Mexico have made bad situation worse

  • Missing Mexican students are collateral damage of drug-war capitalism

The whole episode is emblematic of Mexico’s corruption, impunity and weak democratic institutions, with elected officials and security forces colluding with the drug cartels. In this case, the students were apparently abducted by local police on direct order from Iguala’s mayor and handed over to the local Guerreros Unidos gang, which has close ties to the mayor’s wife, who claim to have killed them, burned the bodies and dumped the ashes in Cocula. And though nearby, the military evinced indifference to the students’ plight.

Despite these entanglements, however, the U.S. continues to engage in a bi-national strategy with Mexico to combat drug trafficking, entrusting the very politicians and security forces whose ties to criminal enterprises are readily apparent.

In the last six years alone, Washington spent $3 billion on the Mérida Initiative, a border security, counter-narcotics and counterterrorism program established by the George W. Bush administration in 2008. The U.S. also funnels millions of dollars through the Department of Defense to train state security forces. In 2006, Peña Nieto’s predecessor Felipe Calderón declared war on the cartels, and the human cost has been staggering. During his six-year tenure from 2006 to 2012, 83,000 people were killed and at least another 26,000 disappeared. The death toll has now reached 100,000.

Mexico’s U.S.-backed anti-drug policies are inherently counterproductive. The criminal networks associated with the illicit and unregulated drug trade are intrinsically violent, and dismantling one cartel does little to curb overall drug trafficking and violence. Instead, interdiction and drug-related arrests can escalate violence by creating power vacuums that spur fragmentation, decentralization and competition among cartels for the freed-up market share.

teleSUR English covers parental initiative:

Ayotzinapa students’ families plan take up arms and continue search

Program notes:

Nearly two months after the disappearance of 43 students from the Ayotzinapa, Mexico teachers college at the hands of local police and criminal gangs, some parents are fed up with government excuses and inaction, and plan to begin an armed search for their missing loved ones with the aid of new, community-led police forces. Many feel the time for peaceful protests is over over and plan to arm themselves and look for their children.

One result, via teleSUR English again:

Ayotzinapa students’ families find 6 new clandestine graves

Program notes:

In the absence of progress by the government in finding their loved ones nearly two months after the 43 students from Ayotzinapa disappeared while in custody of local police, families of the missing students decided to form independent search groups, some of them armed, to search for their missing loved ones with the aid of community-led police forces. The groups’ first discoveries were 6 more clandestine graves.

The Latin American Herald Tribune covers a demand:

Students Call for Mexican President to Step Down Within 6 Days

A group of students from a teachers’ training college from which 43 of their colleagues went missing and are presumed dead has called for the resignation of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto within six days.

“President Peña Nieto has six days to resign because the Mexican people want him to, and if he doesn’t, then the protests against him will increase all over the country,” said one of the students in a broadcast from a radio station the protesters had taken over.

The students issued the demand on Sunday after around 100 seized control of two radio stations in Chilpancingo, the capital of Guerrero state, to air messages demanding that the 43 students who went missing after a night of violence on Sept. 26, be returned alive.

And from teleSUR, the self-evident:

Mexican Police Repression ‘Backfiring,’ ‘Not Stopping Protests’

  • Eleven protestors arrested during mass protests on November 20 are being charged with attempted murder, rioting and conspiracy

On the evening of November 20 in the historic Zocalo square, in Mexico City, police clashed with protestors, beating them with batons and riot shields. Videos and photos uploaded to social networking sites show protesters who were not involved in agressions towards the authorities, including the elderly and children, were targeted and arrested by the police.

“There are patterns of systematic repression, arbitrary detentions and one element that I think is important to express which is to send a message to the public that mobilizations and social protest are bad,” said human rights defender and analyst, Miguel Moguel, from the Mexican NGO, Fundar in a press conference on Sunday, Novemeber 23.

Moguel and other human rights experts and lawyers describe the police operation on November 20 as excessive, “without control or end point” and brutal.

Yet while some analyze the use of police force as a means to quiet social protest, some such as Isabel Sangines, professor and activist, believe that the measures provoke greater protest and dissatisfaction with the authorities.

Evidence thereof, again from teleSUR English:

Mexico: new wave of protests slam gov’t repression

Program notes:

A new wave of protests has erupted in Mexico over the police attack on and detention of demonstrators at the November 20 “mega-march” in solidarity with the 43 missing Ayotzinapa Teacher Training College students. Many feel the police operations are designed to limit and criminalize social protests. Clayton Conn reports from Mexico City.

On an ancillary note, this from Reuters:

Mexico to discuss canceled $3.75 billion train contract with China

Mexico’s transportation minister will meet with Chinese government officials on Monday to discuss the cancellation of a $3.75 billion high-speed rail contract that was awarded to a Chinese-led consortium, Mexico said on Sunday.

The deal for the project, which had earlier this month been granted to a group led by China Railway Construction (601186.SS), the sole bidder, was abruptly revoked after opposition lawmakers claimed it was fixed.

Local media later revealed that a Mexican group in the consortium owned a $7 million house that Pena Nieto’s wife was in the process of acquiring, raising questions about a possible conflict of interest in the bidding process.

The Monday meeting will take place in China, where Mexico’s communications and transportation minister Gerardo Ruiz Esparza will also discuss Mexican plans to build a $10 billion state-owned and privately operated mobile network, according to a statement from the ministry.

Finally, while we can’t definitively trace the original source of this photo-comparison posted on the Naila Twitter feed, showing very similar looking fellows to occupants of a police bus throwing flames during the outbreak of violence by a few in Mexico City during the 20 November mass protest over the 43 vanished students and ensuing government bungling and butt-covering, we pass it on as entirely too plausible though we can make no conclusive assessment on identity absent both attribution and a higher resolution image:

BLOG Provocateurs

EbolaWatch: Reprieves, troops, warnings, & more


First, a reprieve from the Associated Press:

Immigrants from Ebola countries won’t be sent home

Immigrants from the three countries at the center of West Africa’s Ebola crisis are being offered work permits and temporary protection from deportation.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services says immigrants from Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia who have been living in the U.S. illegally will be eligible for temporary protected status for up to 18 months.

The agency says eligible immigrants can apply for the protection starting Friday through May 20. Any immigrant from those three countries who was in the United States as of Thursday is eligible for the protection program.

The latest and most politically loaded alarm, via McClatchy Washington Bureau:

U.S. troop falls ill on flight back from Liberia; first test for Ebola is negative

A U.S. service member returning from Liberia threw up during the flight home, prompting additional medical care to determine if he had been exposed to Ebola, the Pentagon said Thursday.

The service member, who was returning along with 70 other troops, was headed to Fort Bliss, Texas, where they were to undergo a mandatory 21-day quarantine – a requirement the Pentagon imposed after a New York City doctor returning from working with Ebola patients in West Africa tested positive for the disease. The doctor was hospitalized, recovered and was released. None of the people he’d come in contact with before he was hospitalized contracted the disease.

According to a Defense Department, the service member who became ill on the flight home is being treated at Fort Bliss and has been tested once for Ebola. That test came back negative. The Pentagon declined to identify the service branch of the ill troop or how long he’d been in Liberia.

And from the McClatchy Foreign Staff, an evacuation:

Cuban doctor sick with Ebola to be flown to Geneva for treatment

A Cuban doctor who was infected with the Ebola virus in Sierra Leone is being flown to Switzerland for treatment, diplomats and World Health Organization officials said Wednesday.

A WHO official said the agency recommended the evacuation of the doctor.

According to a statement from Cuba’s Ministry of Health, Dr. Felix Baez, a specialist in internal medicine, tested positive for the Ebola virus Monday. He was being cared for by a team of British health care professionals at Kerry Town, an Ebola treatment center in Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, when the decision was made to send him to Geneva.

Cuban diplomats told McClatchy that his condition was stable. A Swiss diplomat said Baez was expected to arrive Thursday in Geneva, where he’ll be treated at Geneva University Hospital.

From TheLocal.at, an Austrian alert:

Medical expert calls for three Ebola centres

An Austrian infectious diseases expert has said that Austria needs three specialised centres to deal with suspected cases of Ebola virus.

At present only the Kaiser Franz Josef hospital in Vienna is properly equipped but Günter Weiss, the Director of the Innsbruck University Hospital for Infectious Diseases, said that hospitals in Graz and Innsbruck should also be fully prepared to deal with cases on a national level.

The Ministry of Health is currently working on an Ebola plan to make national coordination easier in the event of a case being discovered in Austria, Weiss said at a press conference on Thursday.

He said that currently each of Austria’s states is responsible for making its own contingency plan and there is no networking.

The Guardian covers a musical controversy:

Social media rallies behind west African alternative to Band Aid 30

  • After an outpouring of criticism for Bob Geldof’s response to Ebola, Twitter shows its support for a different charity single with a practical message

Social media is rallying behind an alternative to Bob Geldof’s Band Aid 30, which champions advice and solidarity over scenes of desperation designed to tug at the heart and purse strings of the general public.

Africa Stop Ebola was recorded before the release of Sir Bob’s third rehash of the charity single, and includes well-known African musicians such as Tiken Jah Fakoly from the Ivory Coast and Malian artists Amadou and Mariam, Salif Keita and Oumou Sangare.

The #AfricaStopEbola hashtag is being used to share and discuss the alternative charity single, which has seen an increase in support since Band Aid 30 launched on Sunday.

Here’s the song itself, via Africa Stop Ebola:

Africa Stop Ebola – Tiken Jah Fakoly, Amadou & Mariam, Salif Keita, Oumou Sangare and others

Program notes:

Buy the song on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/afr… – ALL PROFITS go to Medecins Sans Frontiers/Doctors without Borders MSF

FOR SUBTITLES CLICK CC (bottom right corner)

JOIN #AfricaStopEbola on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Africa…

A collective of African musicians have come together to record a song to help raise awareness about Ebola in Africa. The song, entitled “Africa Stop Ebola”, features the singers Tiken Jah Fakoly, Amadou & Mariam, Salif Keita, Oumou Sangare, Kandia Kora, Mory Kante, Sia Tolno, Barbara Kanam and rappers Didier Awadi, Marcus (from the band Banlieuz’Arts) and Mokobe, and also includes the musicians Sékou Kouyaté (electric guitar, bass, electric kora) et Ludovic N’Holle (drums).

The song is a message to citizens about what they can do to help stop the spread of Ebola in Africa. The song is performed in French and vernacular languages widely spoken across the region to ensure that the message is understood regardless of the level of literacy and education of the population.

Thanks to Cheick Tidiane Seck for his active participation in this project.

From the Guardian, a curious number:

Only 38% of Australia’s Ebola funds have made it to Africa, group claims

  • Advocacy group One says the global response to the virus has been too slow and funds are stuck in treasury departments

Only 38% of the funds pledged by Australia to fight the Ebola crisis have been distributed to stricken west African countries, an international advocacy organisation has claimed.

Campaigning group One, which boasts over six million members worldwide, has created an online Ebola tracker tool which shows how much funding, equipment and health personnel have been pledged by donor countries and large foundations.

Australia has committed a total of $42m to tackle the disease, $20m of which will go to private Australian company Aspen Medical to operate a UK-built medical centre in Sierra Leone. Another $18m has gone to the United Nations’ Ebola response.

Spokeswoman for One, Friederike Roder, has told Guardian Australia that less than 40% of the money Australia has already committed has made it to Ebola-stricken communities.

IRIN covers the diagnostic front:

Bringing Ebola tests up to speed

Ebola in West Africa is believed to have erupted almost a year ago in southern Guinea, but was confirmed by the French Pasteur Institute only in March 2014, by which time it had killed 60 people and was suspected to have crossed the border into Liberia and Sierra Leone.

While it now takes just a few hours to diagnose Ebola, the rate and scale of the outbreak (in which more than 14,000 cases have been reported so far in West Africa, Europe and the US) still outpace the hours-long tests, necessitating even quicker diagnoses.

Currently in West Africa, samples have to be transported to a laboratory where the commonly used test takes 4-6 hours between set-up and results. Poor roads, and lack of electricity and properly functioning health systems are some of the obstacles to timely diagnoses.

“Getting specimens to the lab can take days and getting the result to clinicians and patients can also take several days. So the time between taking samples and receiving the result can be as long as four days,” Margaret Harris, a spokesperson with the World Health Organization (WHO), told IRIN.

A call to arms from the U.N. News Center:

Ban to take up fight against Ebola with heads of all UN organizations

On the eve of a meeting of United Nations agency chiefs to discuss ways to jointly tackle the Ebola outbreak, the World Bank reported today Liberia’s labour sector has suffered a huge blow since the start of the crisis, as a “massive effort” was underway in Mali to halt the spread of the re-emerged virus.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will tomorrow discuss the common effort to counter the Ebola outbreak with the UN System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB), made up of 29 Executive Heads of UN Funds and Programmes, specialized agencies, including the Bretton Woods Institutions, and related organizations – the World Tourism Organization and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Mr. Ban and other CEB members are scheduled to speak to reporters in the early afternoon in Washington, D.C. where the meeting is taking place at the World Bank headquarters.

Meanwhile, in New York at UN Headquarters tomorrow afternoon, the Security Council has scheduled a meeting to hear a briefing by Dr. David Nabarro, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Ebola, and Anthony Banbury, head of the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER).

StarAfrica covers action by the Economic Community Of West African States:

ECOWAS launches full scale fight against Ebola

The Chief Executive for West Africa’s specialised institution responsible for health in the region has advocated for an annual allocation of an additional $2.5 million to the institution to strengthen its capacity to fight epidemics. A statement by the ECOWAS Commission on Thursday in Abuja noted that a document detailing the response of the West African Health Organisation (WAHO) since the Ebola outbreak in March 2014, Dr. Xavier Crespin, said that such additional resources would improve the capacity of the organisation to cope with such outbreaks.

As the regional institution responsible for health, Dr Crespin said: “WAHO has responded vigorously to the unprecedented outbreak by speedily providing the affected countries with the support needed to confront the epidemic.”

The overall objective of the response by the ECOWAS Commission and WAHO, according to him, is to reduce the number of mortality through early detection, adequate response and building the capacity of Member States.

After the jump the rest of our African covering including another side effect of the outbreak, then on to Mali and systemic problems, then on to Sierra Leone and a shortage of beds and an unfinished British hospital project, aid arrives from the EU, a call to arms to younger doctors, and a potentially lethal exhumation, and next to Liberia and epidemic-enabling bureaucratic infighting, a U.S. ambassador’s skepticism of official optimism, rape flourishes amidst the outbreak, domestic economic impacts, national holiday beach outings banned, and migration anxities. . . Continue reading

Chart of the day: Golden State crime changes


From the Los Angeles Times, using data from the just-published FBI Uniform Crime Reports for 2013, changes in the rates of violent and property crime in California cities of more than 150,000 over 2012, with San Francisco showing the most radical increases,

Click on the image to enlarge:

BLOG Crime

EbolaWatch: Numbers, hope, fear, & politics


First, the good news, via the U.N. News Center:

Ebola cases no longer rising in Guinea, Liberia, UN health agency reports

The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) reported today that the number of Ebola cases is “no longer increasing nationally in Guinea and Liberia, but is still increasing in Sierra Leone”, and that preparedness teams have been sent this week to Benin, Burkina Faso, Gambia and Senegal.

Earlier today, UN Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Sahel, Robert Piper, had appealed for funding for Ebola preparedness in the swath of Africa consisting of Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Gambia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal making up one of the poorest regions in the world.

WHO, in its most recent update, said the evolving Ebola outbreak “highlights the considerable risk of cases being imported into unaffected countries.”

“With adequate levels of preparation, however, such introductions of the disease can be contained before they develop into large outbreaks,” it said.

Next, the latest official numbers released today for all countries by the World Health Organization:

BLOG Ebola stats

More optimism from the Associated Press:

CDC chief drops worst-case Ebola estimate

he government’s worst-case scenario forecast for the Ebola epidemic in West Africa won’t happen, a U.S. health official said Wednesday.

In September, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated the number of people sickened by the Ebola virus could explode to as many as 1.4 million by mid-January without more help.

Things have changed. On Wednesday, CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said, “We don’t think the projections from over the summer will come to pass.”

Frieden did not provide new estimates.

And still more optimistic numeration from VOA News:

World Bank Sees $3B-$4B Ebola Impact in Africa

A World Bank official says the Ebola epidemic will not be as costly to West Africa’s economy as previously feared, thanks to effective containment efforts.

Francisco Ferreira, the bank’s chief economist for Africa, told an audience in Johannesburg Wednesday that he expects the epidemic’s economic toll on the region will range from $3 to $4 billion.

The World Bank in October had predicted the economic impact could be as high as $32 billion if the virus spread significantly outside the borders of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the three countries hardest hit by the outbreak.

And the accompanying video report from VOA News:

Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

Program notes:

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion – well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture – warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

From StarAfrica, a vow of solidarity from the regional economic organization:

ECOWAS restates solidarity with Ebola nations

The President of the ECOWAS Commission, Kadré Désiré Ouédraogo has assured that all institutions of the sub-regional organization are fully behind the affected countries battling the Ebola epidemic. “ECOWAS will do its best to help address the current Ebola crisis,” Ouédraogo promised.

“Let me pay a special tribute to you Madam President for your country’s courageous fight against the further spread of the Ebola virus disease.

ECOWAS stands ready to collaborate with your government, the UN System and all partners for an effective and efficient response to the Ebola outbreak,” the ECOWAS Commission President said.

The medium and the message, via Al Jazeera English:

UN Ebola effort faces ‘information challenge’

Top Ebola official says trouble figuring out new infection cases in West Africa makes controlling outbreak difficult.

Authorities are having trouble figuring out how many more people are getting Ebola in Liberia and Sierra Leone and where the hotspots are in those countries, according to the UN’s top Ebola official in West Africa.

This is harming efforts to get control of the outbreak, Anthony Banbury said on Tuesday.

Over the past week, the US said, Banbury met the presidents of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, where Ebola has infected at least 10,000 people and killed roughly half of them, as he focuses on adapting an operational framework for international anti-Ebola efforts.

“The challenge is good information, because information helps tell us where the disease is, how it’s spreading and where we need to target our resources,” Banbury told the Associated Press by phone from the Ghanaian capital of Accra, where the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response, or UNMEER, is based.

From Punch Nigeria, a call for screening at the border:

Ebola: NMA wants W’ African travellers tested

The Nigeria Medical Association has urged the government to ensure that passengers coming into the country from West African countries are properly checked during Christmas period to prevent fresh outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease in the country.

Chairman of the NMA in Osun State, Dr. Suraj Ogunyemi, gave the advice on Wednesday in Osogbo, the Osun State capital, at a press conference to usher in the 2014 Physicians’ Week.

Ogunyemi lauded the Federal Government, states and others who rose up in the battle against Ebola virus when it was brought into Nigeria by the late Liberian-American, Patrick Sawyer.

He said, “We must realise that the threat of importation of the EVD into the country is very much abundant. EVD could be imported from travellers from Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea to Nigeria, especially through Nigerians who work there and would return by road during Christmas.

“It can also be reintroduced by traders who travel across the nations of West Africa. So, government must ensure that our borders, seaports and airports are manned by health officials with adequate devices to check those coming into the country.”

On to the latest country to be stricken with the Associated Press:

Amid Ebola cases, Mali braces borders and beyond

On Mali’s dusty border with Ebola-stricken Guinea, travelers have a new stop: Inside a white tent, masked medical workers zap incomers with infrared thermometer guns and instruct them to wash their hands in chlorinated water.

After five recent Ebola deaths, Mali has become a front line in the fight against the virus, especially in the border town of Kouremale which two of those victims passed through last month. Malian authorities, with help from the U.N. and aid groups, this week deployed medical teams at the border to try to stop the disease’s spread.

“You are Mali’s portal. Don’t be the weak link in the fight against Ebola. Mali must not become a land of propagation for Ebola in the world,” President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita urged medical staffers and border guards during a visit as the deployment began. “We are counting on you to meet this challenge.”

Next, the bad news from Sierra Leone from Deutsche Welle:

Sierra Leone hit hardest in latest WHO Ebola numbers

The global Ebola infection tally has surpassed 15,000. Sierra Leone confirmed 533 new cases in the week to November 16, accounting for much of the increase.

Cases of Ebola reached 15,145, with 5,420 deaths, through November 16 – almost all in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, which reported the steepest uptick – the World Health Organization announced Wednesday. Sierra Leone has also reported 63 Ebola deaths since Friday.

“Much of this was driven by intense transmission in the country’s west and north,” the WHO announced. Sierra Leone has only managed to isolate 13 percent of Ebola patients, the agency’s figures show.

Ebola does not transmit easily, but it has particularly spread in the capital, Freetown, which accounted for 168, or nearly one-third of Sierra Leone’s 533 confirmed cases in the week to November 16, and nearby Port Loko. A doctor, the first Cuban infected with Ebola, who caught the virus in Sierra Leone will fly to Switzerland in the next 48 hours for hospitalization in Geneva. Five doctors from Sierra Leone have died of Ebola.

More from Reuters:

Ebola spreading intensely in Sierra Leone as toll rises – WHO

The figures, through Nov. 16, represent a jump of 243 deaths and 732 cases since those issued last Friday, and cases continue to be under-reported, the WHO said in its latest update.

Sierra Leone, a former British colony, confirmed 533 new cases in the week to Nov. 16, it said, accounting for much of the increase. It also reported 63 deaths since last Friday.

“Much of this was driven by intense transmission in the country’s west and north,” the WHO said.

The capital Freetown, which accounted for 168 new confirmed cases, and nearby Port Loko were particularly hard-hit.

British National Health Service help on the way, via the Guardian:

First NHS volunteers set to leave for Sierra Leone on Ebola mission

  • The 50 volunteers have undergone extensive training designed to ensure none of them return to the UK with the virus

The first batch of NHS staff who volunteered to treat Ebola patients in Sierra Leone are to leave the UK for west Africa after undergoing extensive training designed to ensure none return with the virus.

The 50 staff will depart nearly six weeks after they were shortlisted as suitable by UK-Med, the organisation funded by the Department for International Development to recruit NHS staff for secondment. Nearly 1,000 volunteered, but because of the need for careful selection and training, none have yet flown out.

The particular risk to health workers is highlighted by the news that one of the 250 Cuban doctors and nurses sent to the Ebola epidemic region has become infected. Félix Báez Sarría, one of about 165 Cuban medics in Sierra Leone, is being flown to Switzerland for treatment. “He’s not critical, he’s doing well, in a good condition,” said his boss, Dr Jorge Delgado Bustillo. “The most important thing now is to get him evacuated to Geneva.”

On to Liberia with some ominous numbers from another sector via BBC News:

Ebola crisis in Liberia: ‘One in two workers now jobless’

Nearly half of all Liberians who were employed when the Ebola outbreak began are no longer working, a survey by the World Bank has found.

It said many workers have been told to stay at home or have lost their jobs, while markets have been forced to shut.

Ana Revenga, a senior World Bank official, said even those living areas of Liberia that have not been hit by Ebola “are suffering the economic side effects of this terrible disease”.

The other side of the Ebola coin from StarAfrica:

Liberia’s Sirleaf delighted about decline in Ebola cases

Liberia President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has expressed delight that most Ebola Treatment Units (ETUs) around Monrovia are experiencing a decline in patient intake.She however warned Liberians to continue to follow the measures outlined by healthcare workers in order to break the transmission of the disease, as there are still hotspots and pockets in communities.

According to an Executive Mansion press release, President Sirleaf made the statement following a tour of several ETUs around Monrovia to assess conditions there, including constraints if any, and to thank healthcare workers, partners, and volunteers for their services to the country especially in the fight against the Ebola virus disease.

The President’s visit took her to treatment units at ELWA-II, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) ELWA-III, Ministry of Defense, the three ETUs under construction at the Samuel Kayon Doe Sports Complex, and the National Ebola Command Center in Sinkor.

An American de-escalation from the Associated Press:

Military scaling back treatment units in Liberia

A Pentagon spokesman says the U.S. military is scaling back the size and number of Ebola treatment facilities it is building in Liberia.

Army Col. Steve Warren said Wednesday that a total of 10 treatment facilities will be built; the Pentagon previously had planned to build as many as 17. Additionally, seven of the 10 will have 50 beds each rather than the 100 beds previously planned.

The first of the 10 treatment facilities has been completed and two more are expected to be finished this week. They are built by U.S. military personnel and are to be operated by local or international health workers.

Finally, a Liberian political impact from FrontPageAfrica:

Ebola Factor: Virus Crisis Could Dissuade Voters in Grand Bassa

It’s Friday, the busiest and most popular market day in Grand Bassa County’s second most populous district, and many people have turned out to either sell or buy at the Wayzohn Market, Compound Three – the district’s provisional capital. The most dominant issue nowadays is the Ebola crisis and it takes a lot to sway people from this discussion, especially in a county where new cases of the virus have emerged thus sparking fears amongst locals.

The debate now amongst many, not just those gathering at forums or market place, is ‘how much impact will the current Ebola crisis have on the Special senatorial election?’ The answer to this has prompted many to suggest, without any doubt, that the virus has already altered Liberia election’ time table. Like those men at the tea shop, many people who have spoken to FrontPage Africa fear that voters’ turnout will be lower than expected, mainly because of the compounded problem of the Ebola fear and the reluctance of people who see it meaningless to vote only because they claim the government has forsaken them.

“As we all know when elections is coming about this time the momentum is very high, but for this election, we’re only hearing about election, but the momentum is low,” Alexander Flankiah, a resident of Wayzohn, District Three said. Flankiah is expected to be on the campaign trail of one of the famous candidates in the race, but his pessimism about attracting a large crowd for rally is keeping him worried. During a recent trip to a town in rural Grand Bassa, he said it was difficult to bring people together. “People were stopping their immediate family from showing up because of the recent Ebola cases in the county.” he said.