, WASHINGTON, Nov 16 – A doctor infected with Ebola in Sierra Leone began receiving treatment in the United States, as the world’s most powerful economies vowed to “extinguish” a deadly epidemic of the disease.
The vast desert nation of Mali, meanwhile, scrambled to prevent a new outbreak of Ebola that has killed three people, despite some hopeful signs elsewhere in Africa.
Liberia has namely lifted its state of emergency and the Democratic Republic of Congo announced the end of its own, unrelated, outbreak of the disease.
In London, pop stars recorded a new “Band Aid” single to help combat the virus that has killed more than 5,100 people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, while global leaders meeting in Brisbane, Australia made no new pledges of cash.
“G20 members are committed to do what is necessary to ensure the international effort can extinguish the outbreak,” the leaders said in a statement, as they welcomed the International Monetary Fund’s initiative to release $300 million to combat Ebola.
They also promised to share best practices on protecting health workers on the front line.
In the United States, the University of Nebraska Medical Center tweeted that Martin Salia, a legal US resident, had “safely arrived” in Omaha after a flight from Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown.
He will be kept in isolation at the center’s biocontainment unit to avoid infecting others.
Described as “critically ill,” Salia is the third Ebola patient to be treated by the UNMC, one of a handful of medical facilities in the United States specially designated to treat Ebola patients. Both of the previous patients survived.
He had traveled back to his home country to treat Ebola patients at Freetown’s Connaught Hospital amid a devastating outbreak when he became infected.
– ‘Mali situation worrying’ –
The G20 pledge came as Togo, which is coordinating the West African fight, warned that the world “cannot relax efforts” despite some encouraging signals on the ground.
Senegal said Friday it was reopening its air and sea borders with Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, although its land border with Guinea will remain closed.
The news came a day after Liberia lifted its state of emergency, announcing huge gains in fighting Ebola.
The DR Congo — where a three-month outbreak of a different strain of the disease claimed at least 49 lives since August — declared itself Ebola-free on Saturday.
But attention has now turned to Mali where there are fears that an isolated outbreak could spark a major crisis after the deaths from Ebola of three people infected by a Guinean imam who died of the disease.
A fourth person, a doctor at the Bamako clinic where the cleric died, is in intensive care with Ebola. More than 250 people have been placed under observation.
Former colonial power France added Bamako to its list of destinations subject to Ebola flight checks, and its development minister, Annick Girardin, was making an unscheduled visit to the country.
“The situation in Mali is worrying,” she told AFP in the Guinean capital Conakry, saying she would meet Malian authorities “to see how we can scale things up.”
There is no known cure for Ebola, one of the deadliest known pathogens, but trials for several possible treatments were announced this week in West Africa and Canada. The disease spreads through contact with bodily fluids.
The World Health Organization said Friday that 5,177 people are known to have died of Ebola across eight countries, out of a total 14,413 cases of infection, since December 2013.
– Makes humans ‘untouchable’ –
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged “G20 countries to step up,” warning that Ebola’s disrupting effect on farming could potentially spark a food crisis for a million people.
“Transmission continues to outpace the response from the international community,” Ban told reporters.
A joint petition from aid groups including Oxfam and Save the Children urged the G20 to band together to ensure that the right resources are made available in terms of staff, equipment and funding.
Artists including One Direction, U2 frontman Bono, Coldplay’s Chris Martin and Sinead O’Connor recorded late into the night for a 30th anniversary version of the charity single “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”
“It’s not just about what’s happening in West Africa, it could happen here tomorrow,” said rocker-turned-activist Bob Geldof, one of the forces behind the original Band Aid.
“We can stop this thing, we can allow mothers no matter where they are to be able to touch their dying children.”
Making his way into the studio, Bono hit out at the response of rich countries, saying if they “kept the promises they make at these big G8 meetings and the like we wouldn’t have to be standing here.”
Set to air on Sunday before its official release Monday, the single will be the fourth incarnation of the song, which became one of the biggest-selling singles ever after its release in 1984 to raise funds for Ethiopian famine relief.