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Ebola: Machel urges African leaders to seek help on continent

Graca Machel says the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has highlighted a crisis of identity on the continent.

FILE: Graca Machel says the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has highlighted a crisis of identity on the continent. Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Former president Nelson Mandela's widow, Graca Machel, says the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has highlighted a crisis of identity on the continent.

Speaking at an event in Parktown yesterday, Machel came out at African leaders for allowing the West to come up with solutions to deal with the deadly virus, which has already claimed over 5,000 lives in West Africa.

The former first lady says Uganda should have spoken with a louder and more authorities on the outbreak because it was the first African country hit by Ebola years ago and it managed to contain it.

Machel asked why the experiences of Africans are over-looked.

"Why is it that when we have a crisis on the continent we have to run to the West for help? We have the capacity to contain it."

MORE WORK NEEDED TO FIGHT EBOLA

International efforts to fight Ebola are helping to slow the rate of new infections in some areas but increased infections in others and fears of further contagion in Mali indicate much work is still to be done, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Friday.

The UN chief said more trained medical teams are needed. He said the coordinated efforts of country leaders and safer burial practices, combined with international support, are helping.

"If we continue to accelerate our response, we can contain and end the outbreak by the middle of next year," Ban told reporters after a UN Chief Executives' board meeting in Washington, DC "I appeal to the international community to stay engaged."

Still, he added, "the new chain of transmission in Mali is of course of deep concern."

All six known Ebola cases in Mali have died. Most of the deaths and cases are in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organisation, told reporters she is travelling to Mali to discuss the situation. She said 120 people who had contact with the first person to die of Ebola in Mali, a 2-year-old child, had passed the 21 day time-frame in which a person is considered potentially at risk of developing symptoms.

Of greater concern, she said, is a second person with Ebola who crossed into Mali from Guinea and has elicited close to 500 contacts.

"We are scaling up our action," Chan said. "We must smother this little fire before it gets out of control."

Overall, Chan said, there are some signs of progress in battling Ebola, and that cases are stabilizing in some areas.

The death toll has risen to 5,459 out of 15,351 cases identified in eight countries at the end of Nov. 18, the WHO said on Friday. The figures showed an increase of 39 recorded deaths and 106 new cases since those issued on Wednesday.

"We must maintain our vigilance," Chan said. "Complacency would be our enemy."

Additional reporting by Reuters.

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