Ebola cases stabilise amid fear: senator

New cases of Ebola have stabilised at about 70 a week in Liberia, but there are fears some remote villages could be decimated by the virus.


Australian Greens senator Richard Di Natale is visiting the west African country to get a first-hand look at the efforts by Australian and other health workers to combat Ebola.

A meeting involving the World Health Organisation, Centre for Disease Control, Doctors Without Borders, various UN agencies and Liberian government representatives received an update on the battle.

“There is guarded optimism that the number of new cases has stabilised at about 70 each week but there’s also worry that progress appears to have stalled,” Senator Di Natale wrote in a blog post.

“Of more concern is the fact that new clusters are being reported in remote areas that are difficult to reach and there are fears that a number of villages could be decimated.”

There are also indications that most of the new outbreaks are being transmitted from people who have visited the capital Monrovia.

“So it’s critical that the epidemic is contained there.”

On Thursday Senator Di Natale met with Liberia’s vice-president Joseph Boakai, who offered his sympathies on the death of cricketer Phillip Hughes.

“Given everything that his country is enduring it’s a remarkable gesture,” the senator wrote.

Australia has so far contributed $42 million to the international effort, which includes a $20 million contract with private company Aspen to staff a British-built medical hospital in Sierra Leone.

But Catholic international aid agency Caritas Australia is concerned the mid-year budget review could cut aid, just as issues such as the Ebola crisis require a greater effort.

It is petitioning Treasurer Joe Hockey to quarantine foreign aid from cuts.

Caritas Australia CEO Paul O’Callaghan said Australia was the world’s 10th wealthiest country.

“Surely Australia is better than this. Millions of Australians quietly donate to Australia’s aid and development sector, and they expect our government to play their part,” he said.