September 30, 2014 / 4:04 PM / 4 years ago

UPDATE 2-UN Ebola mission head wants significant progress in 60 days

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By Matthew Mpoke Bigg

ACCRA, Sept 30 (Reuters) - The U.N. mission to combat Ebola wants to see significant progress in fighting the deadly disease within 60 days, including ensuring that 70 percent of cases receive treatment, its new head said on Tuesday.

At least 3,091 people have died from Ebola since the West African outbreak was first reported in the remote southeast forest region of Guinea in March. The other two most affected countries are Sierra Leone and Liberia.

The outbreak has overwhelmed health systems in one of the world’s poorest regions, prompting the United Nations, international organisations and foreign governments to increase support for the affected countries.

“Seventy percent of infected people need to be under treatment, 70 percent of burials need to be done in a safe way in order to turn this around and we need to do it in 60 days,” Tony Banbury said in the capital of Ghana, the headquarters of the new U.N. mission.

“It’s an extremely ... ambitious target and the only way it will be achieved is through this international effort,” he said, adding the target had originally been set by the World Health Organization.

After a slow initial response, foreign governments - including the United States, Britain, France, China and Cuba - and international organisations are now pouring funds, supplies and personnel into the affected parts of West Africa.

One of the main challenges of the U.N. mission, UNMEER, which was established earlier this month, will be liaising with those nations, as well as with other organizations and the affected countries themselves.

In some past emergencies, poor coordination, disagreements and even rivalries between governments and between aid groups slowed the response.

The U.N. mission will not provide any medical services, focusing instead on policy, expertise, logistics and “ensuring there will be no gaps in the plan”, Banbury said.

He arrived in Ghana on Monday and plans to fly to Liberia, the worst affected country, on Wednesday.

Banbury described the crisis as “very grave” but said that the political will, resources and action being shown were tangible signs of progress. (Additional reporting by Kwasi Kpodo; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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