(Reuters) – UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, starting a visit to Ebola-hit states in West Africa on Friday, urged their people to set aside traditional practices like washing the dead by hand so as to help end an epidemic that has killed nearly 7,000 people.
Ban said he hoped to use his two-day tour of the region – his first since the outbreak was detected in March – to raise the profile of the fight against the disease and to thank the thousands of health workers who have participated.
The virus, which causes vomiting, diarrhoea and bleeding in its final stages, is spread by contact with the bodily fluids of the sick. It has no known cure and had never struck in West Africa before.
U.N. officials and health workers have said that many people in the worst affected countries of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone have been slow to adapt their cultural practices. Many people have denied the existence of the disease or voiced anger at what they see as an attack on their beliefs and way of life.
“We would like to urge local communities that this is a temporary operation and we fully respect the cultural traditions but at this time it is important to abide by health protocols,” Ban told Reuters onboard his flight to Liberia.
“Our goal is to see the last case identified and cured.” (read more)