Zuma pledges support to combat Ebola outbreak

The president has emphasised the importance of a global response to the epidemic.

FILE: World Health Organisation volunteers putting up a banner warning people about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Picture: Facebook.com.

JOHANNESBURG - President Jacob Zuma has said that if Ebola had broken out in more developed countries, fewer people would have died.

Addressing the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in New York yesterday, Zuma pledged further support from South Africa to combat the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Nearly 3,000 people have died in the region from the virus.

Zuma emphasised the importance of a global response to the epidemic.

"South Africa stands ready to continue to provide resources, whatever resources are at our disposal, to assist the people and governments of our sister countries. We add our voice in calling for more resources to be deployed."

Meanwhile, Humanitarian organisation, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF, or Doctors without Borders) has welcomed South Africa's commitment.

The Health Department has set up a fund which aims to raise R250 million to coordinate and manage assistance efforts for the affected countries.

MSF's Borrie le Grange says the organisation has been in discussions with the Health Department.

"Our discussions could see the setting up of a 40-bed treatment facility in Sierra Leone and also the supplying of human resources."

It's feared the number of infections could skyrocket to more than a million by early next year unless efforts to deal with the outbreak are further bolstered.

Meanwhile, the head of a treatment centre in Liberia, the country worst-hit by Ebola, has urged survivors of the disease to donate their blood for use in treating infected patients.

Studies by the World Health Organisation suggest that transfusions from Ebola survivors might prevent or treat infection in others.

William Pooley, a British man who survived Ebola after being treated in London, flew to the United States this month to donate his blood to help another patient suffering from the haemorrhagic fever.