Among the challenges of an Ebola ward

One of the biggest roadblocks in West Africa to containing the Ebola outbreak is the lack of isolation wards for people who are infected. President Obama has announced plans to build 17 new Ebola Treatment Units in Liberia.

In Monrovia, efforts are also underway to start training local doctors, nurses and janitors on how to safely take care of patients who are sick with the deadly disease.

On a recent day, trainees dressed in white Tyvek suits, gloves, goggles and face masks were trying to restrain an Ebola patient thrashing around on the ward.

The exercise is part of a one-week course to try to get new workers ready to handle the challenges of an Ebola ward. Dr. Srinivas Murthy, an infectious disease specialist from the University of British Columbia, is one of the WHO staff guiding the trainees.

WHO hopes to be able to train several thousand new workers in the coming months. All of them are Liberian and all of them have to work in head-to-toe protective gear.

Everyone on the team is exhausted and overheated in their protective suits. As they move through the mock Ebola Treatment Unit or ETU, many of them are having problems with their goggles fogging up. One doctor rips a glove and struggles to pull on another one over the torn latex. Sweat drips around the edges of their surgical masks.

After the team finally disposes of a body, they head to the exit where they’re sprayed off with a chlorine solution. Taking off the protective gear also must be done carefully to make sure there’s no exposure to the virus.


Calls for a humanitarian corridor between Turkey and besieged Kobani

Despite US-led airstrikes on the Syrian border town of Kobani, Kurdish forces are in desperate need of reinforcements and ISIL extremists continue their advance.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Syrians, mostly Kurds, are attempting to flee fighters from the Islamic State militant movement, pouring over the border into Turkey.

There are calls for a humanitarian corridor to be opened between the Turkish border and Kobani to allow the wounded out and fresh supplies and fighters in. Turkey has so far refused.

Turkey has been reluctant to help the Kurds after several decades battling the Turkish Kurdish PKK party, which is listed as a terrorist group by Turkey and its Western allies.


Turkey sends humanitarian aid to Syrian border town Kobani

The Turkish government has sent 634 vehicles of humanitarian aid to the Syrian town of Kobani since September 19, the prime minister’s office said Friday.

“The total amount of aid, including food, medicine, tents, clothes and cleaning supplies delivered to Kobani region cost around $10 million,” the office said in a statement.

Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab, has been a scene of fierce battles between the Kurdish groups and the ISIS since mid-September.

Turkey’s disaster and emergency agency, the AFAD, has been collaborating with Turkish municipalities, non-governmental organizations, and foreign aid agencies to provide humanitarian assistance to Syria since 2012. The total aid amount sent to the country as of now stood at $300 million, the statement added.

[Daily Sabah]

International charities and aid agencies locked out of G20 summit

Non-government organizations and community groups fear their voices won’t be heard during next month’s G20 leaders summit in Brisbane because their access to the event will be much more restricted than previous meetings held in Russia and Mexico.

Only three or four accreditations will be allowed to the G20 media center. At last year’s G20 summit in St Petersburg, the C20 was given 75 media center accreditations, and at the 2012 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, 100 accreditations were granted.

Tim Costello, chief executive of World Vision Australia said he could not understand the decision to reduce the access of civil society groups to the Brisbane event. “We had very good access to the summit in St Petersburg and civil society is playing constructive role,” he said.

The prospect of a very small number of accreditations for the aid agencies has raised concern in the community sector that the Australian Government, which is president of the G20 this year, is attempting to shut down media scrutiny of the Brisbane summit.

[Sydney Morning Herald]

Ukraine approaching humanitarian catastrophe as cold season nears

Ukraine is on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe especially as the cold season nears, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said Thursday.

“According to our estimates the humanitarian situation in the country is close to disaster, especially taking into account the upcoming cold season. Such opinions were voiced not only by Russia, but also by many international organizations, including the UN,” he said.

Due to the Kiev’s military operation against independence supporters in eastern Ukraine, Donetsk and Luhansk regions have witnessed a severe humanitarian crisis, as many citizens have struggled without clean water, electricity, gas and other essentials.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian authorities still fail to agree a deal with Moscow on the renewal of gas shipments. In June, Russia’s gas giant Gazprom introduced a prepayment system for gas deliveries to Ukraine due to Kiev’s massive debt which is currently estimated at $5.3 billion.

Earlier this week, Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller said Ukraine would not be able to fill its underground gas storage facilities with 18-20 billion cubic meters of natural gas necessary to sustain winter.

[RIA Novosti]

3660 killed and 8756 wounded to date in Eastern Ukraine

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has stated that at least 3,660 people have been killed in eastern Ukraine since April – including 330 since the ceasefire brokered on Sept. 5, and 8,756 wounded.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid said in the latest UN report: “For almost half a year, residents of the areas affected by the armed conflict have been deprived of their fundamental rights to education, to adequate healthcare, to housing and to opportunities to earn a living. Further prolongation of this crisis will make the situation untenable for the millions of people whose daily lives have been seriously disrupted.”


Gaza residents living in tents awaiting international aid

More than five weeks after the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip, tens of thousands of people whose homes were destroyed or badly damaged in the fighting still live in classrooms, storefronts and other crowded shelters. In some of the hardest-hit areas, the displaced have pitched tents next to the debris that once was their homes.

Despite their pressing needs, reconstruction efforts appear stymied by a continued Israeli-Egyptian border blockade of Gaza and an unresolved power struggle between the Islamic militant group Hamas and Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Those involved in rebuilding say the post-war paralysis will come to an end next week, with an international pledging conference in Cairo. There, Abbas will ask for $4 billion for Gaza, including for the rebuilding or repair of more than 60,000 homes and 5,000 businesses.

Once the money is raised, a United Nations deal will ensure that large amounts of building materials get into Gaza, despite the blockade. James Rawley, a senior U.N. official involved in the reconstruction, acknowledged the deal is fragile.

“We have a window of opportunity to make a difference in the lives of the people of Gaza,” Rawley said. “But for that to happen, we need all parties to cooperate and work hard, including increasing the capacity of the (Israel-Gaza) crossings.”

Skepticism about rebuilding efforts is widespread in Gaza. The recent war was the third in the territory in just over five years. Many homes destroyed in previous fighting haven’t been rebuilt.


The man who discovered Ebola

Peter Piot discovered Ebola when, as a young scientist in Antwerp, he received a blood sample from a nun who had a mysterious ailment in what was then Zaire.

The doctor who sent the sample wanted it tested for yellow fever, but tests for that, as well as Lassa fever and typhoid, came back negative. After injecting the blood into lab animals in an attempt to isolate the virus from the sample, animals began to die and “we began to realize that the sample contained something quite deadly,” Piot tells the Guardian, “…It was clear to us that we were dealing with one of the deadliest infectious diseases the world had ever seen,” he recalls.

They named the virus Ebola after what they thought was the nearest river, though they later learned they’d gotten it wrong.

“I always thought that Ebola, in comparison to AIDS or malaria, didn’t present much of a problem because the outbreaks were always brief and local,” he says, but “around June it became clear to me that there was something fundamentally different about this outbreak.” That’s because, he says, a “perfect storm” unfolded: The countries involved were dealing with civil wars, which meant doctors had fled and healthcare systems had collapsed, and the outbreak started in a densely-populated border region, making it more difficult to track down people who had been exposed.

“This isn’t just an epidemic any more. This is a humanitarian catastrophe,” he says. “I really never thought that it could get this bad.”