Soldiers in Sierra Leone and Liberia deployed in fight against Ebola

Death toll stands at 887 as three suspected cases reported in Nigeria

 In this handout provided by Samaritan’s Purse, two people in protective clothing carry a body at an Ebola isolation ward at a mission hospital outside of Monrovia, Liberia. Photograph:  Samaritans Purse via Getty Images

In this handout provided by Samaritan’s Purse, two people in protective clothing carry a body at an Ebola isolation ward at a mission hospital outside of Monrovia, Liberia. Photograph: Samaritans Purse via Getty Images

Mon, Aug 4, 2014, 19:25

Hundreds of troops have been deployed in Sierra Leone and Liberia to fight the worst outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus, as the death toll climbed to 887 and three new suspected cases of the highly contagious disease were reported in Nigeria.

With healthcare systems in the west Africa nations completely overrun by the epidemic, the African Development Bank said yesterday it would immediately disburse $50 million to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea – the country’s worst affected – as part of an international effort to contain it.

The World Health Organisation, which warned last week of catastrophic consequences if the disease is not controlled, reported 61 new deaths in the two days to August 1st. The outbreak began in February in the forests of Guinea, where the toll continues to rise, but its epicentre has since shifted to neighbouring Liberia and Sierra Leone.

In Nigeria, where US citizen Patrick Sawyer died of Ebola in late July after arriving from Liberia, the WHO reported three new cases, two of them probable and one suspected.

Panic among local communities, which have attacked health workers and threatened to burn down isolation wards, prompted Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea to impose tough measures last week, including the closure of schools and the quarantine of the remote forest region hardest hit by the disease.

Long convoys of military trucks ferried troops and medical workers on Monday to Sierra Leone’s far east, where the density of cases is highest. Military spokesman Col Michael Samoura said the operation, code- named Octopus, involved about 750 military personnel.

Troops would gather in the southeastern town of Bo before travelling to isolated communities to implement quarantines, he added. Healthcare workers would be allowed to come and go freely, and the communities would be supplied with food.

In neighbouring Liberia, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and ministers held a crisis meeting on Sunday to discuss a series of anti-Ebola measures as police contained infected communities in the northern Lofa county.

Police were setting up checkpoints and roadblocks for key entrance and exit points to those infected communities, with nobody allowed to leave quarantined communities. Troops were fanning out across Liberia to help deal with the emergency.

The government has said the bodies of all Ebola victims must be cremated as fears rose that the disease could be spread by burials in residential areas. At least 17 bodies have been abandoned on Monrovia’s streets in recent days, health officials said.

WHO chief Margaret Chan warned regional leaders on Friday that Ebola was outpacing their efforts to contain it and pledged to organise a $100 million international response to bring the outbreak under control. US officials and multilateral agencies were due to discuss the emergency at a three-day US-Africa summit in Washington, starting yesterday.

It has been reported that in Monrovia, several clinics were spontaneously closing their doors as doctors were too afraid to treat patients. More than 60 doctors have already died of Ebola, hampering efforts to control the outbreak. – (Reuters)