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U.N. chief arrives in Guinea on final day of Ebola tour

WHO says Ebola’s death toll has risen to 7,373 among 19,031 cases known to date there

Published: Updated:

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon arrived in the Guinean capital Conakry on Saturday on the last day of his tour of west African countries hit by the world’s worst outbreak of Ebola and as death toll because of the disease reaches 7,373.

Agence France-Presse reported that the U.N. chief was greeted at the airport by Guinea’s foreign and health ministers Francois Louceny Fall and Remy Lamah.

Several officials involved in the drive to end the epidemic in Guinea were also on hand at the airport.

Ban, who did not speak to reporters, was to hold a news conference later Saturday after meeting with Guinean President Alpha Conde.

He was to head next to the Malian capital Bamako to wrap up his tour.

With the United Nations having faced criticism for an allegedly slow response to the virus, Ban started the tour in Liberia, the worst-hit country, after flying in from Ghana, where the U.N. Ebola mission is headquartered.

He pledged to help the Ebola-ravaged countries rebuild their health systems.

Ban is accompanied by Margaret Chan, head of the World Health Organization; David Nabarro, the U.N. coordinator for the fight against Ebola; and Anthony Banbury, the head of the U.N. Mission for Ebola Emergency Response or UNMEER.

The Ebola epidemic, which broke out in Guinea in December 2013, has killed more than 6,900 people, almost all of them in west Africa.

Liberia tops the number of fatalities at 3,290 deaths but Sierra Leone earlier this month overtook it as the country with the most infections.

The fight to contain the virus has often come up against attitudinal obstacles.

On Friday, hundreds of angry youths prevented the medical aid group Doctors Without Borders (MSF) from setting up an Ebola treatment unit in a southern town, saying they did not want to be infected by the virus.

MSF, which has spearheaded the fight against Ebola, was setting up the unit in Kissidougou, a town in the southern forest near where the outbreak began.

Police commissioner Alfred Houlemou told AFP by telephone from the scene that the youths “raided the facility, notably the MSF tents, and they torched tarpaulins and broke chairs to chase out the health personnel and officials.”

Death toll hits 7,373

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization said on Saturday that the death toll from Ebola in the three worst-affected countries in West Africa has risen to 7,373 among 19,031 cases known to date there.

The latest data, posted overnight on the WHO website, reflected nearly 500 new deaths from the worst ever outbreak of
the hemorrhagic fever in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone since previous WHO figures were issued on Dec. 17.

(With AFP and Reuters)