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UN Ebola chief hails successes, warns of fatigue

By JONATHAN PAYE-LAYLEH
Associated Press

MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) - The head of the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response on Thursday hailed Liberia's success in the fight against the deadly Ebola virus, but warned against complacency now that the number of cases has dropped.

"What I've seen is that the level of awareness is very strong, but the biggest risk we have is a certain degree of fatigue," Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said on his second visit to the West African nation.

Ebola has killed more than 3,800 people in Liberia and nearly 9,200 across Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone since the first Ebola deaths in rural Guinea in December 2013. All three countries have weak health systems that were ill-prepared for such an epidemic.

Significant gains have been made against Ebola, and now only a small number of cases remain in Liberia. Students returned to schools Monday after a six-month closure, though health officials warned that a single case could trigger a whole new cluster of infections.

Ould Cheikh Ahmed said as one or two cases continue to pop up, people are getting frustrated.

"We call it the bumpy road to zero," he said, warning "the biggest enemy is complacency."

The United States is also preparing to withdraw by the end of April nearly all of its 2,800 troops fighting the outbreak in West Africa, the White House said last week.

In Sierra Leone, the Anti-Corruption Commission has released a list of people who must report to its offices as it investigates the spending of money meant to help fight Ebola.

A report by Sierra Leone's Auditor General that emerged two weeks ago found that nearly one-third of the money received to fight Ebola, about $5.75 million, was spent without saving the necessary receipts and invoices.

The list released Tuesday included district medical doctors, the coordinator of the National Ebola Response, a former permanent secretary in the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, other government officials, private contractors and business people.

More than 3,300 people have died from Ebola with nearly 11,000 cases over the past year in Sierra Leone, where transmission remains the highest.

___

Associated Press reporter Clarence Roy-Macaulay in Freetown, Sierra Leone contributed to this report.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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