West Africa is experiencing the first decrease in Ebola cases in three weeks, recording 128 new cases between Feb. 8 and Feb. 15, according to the World Health Organization. However, dwindling funds, a long rainy season and improper burials are making it difficult to control the disease.
The current Ebola epidemic began a year ago in Guinea and spread throughout West Africa. Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are the worst-affected countries but are also seeing steady decreases in Ebola case numbers since the beginning of the year.
Guinea recorded 52 new Ebola cases in the week of Feb. 8. In August and September 2014, Liberia experienced over 300 new Ebola cases per week; during the week of Feb. 8, Liberia recorded only two new confirmed cases. Sierra Leone now holds the highest infection rate, experiencing up to 248 new Ebola cases per week; however, in January, the numbers declined to 118. During the week of Feb. 8, Sierra Leone confirmed 74 new cases, 54 of which were in Sierra Leone’s capital of Freetown.
The life-threatening disease has caused other problems throughout West Africa. Farming and food production has slowed, numerous roads have been closed, bans have been put on travel and families have been displaced or torn apart.
Experts blame ignorance and fear for contributing to the disease’s rapid spread in West Africa in the worst outbreak on record. There have also been violent attacks on healthcare facilities and workers despite large-scale education campaigns.
However, the decline in cases is already bringing positive effects. President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone announced in January that the country was lifting the travel restrictions it had implemented in an effort to contain the virus.
West Africa’s year-long Ebola outbreak has now killed over 9,365 people from among 23,218 cases recorded, mainly in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.
One challenge has risen from seemingly good news: funding. Officials say that international financial support has also decreased with the number of Ebola cases. Officials say that $1.5 billion is needed to combat the disease for the next six months, and so far only $482 million has been pledged.
– Alaina Grote