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UN chief to visit Ebola-hit countries
[UNITED NATIONS] UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will leave Wednesday for a visit to Ebola-hit countries in West Africa to take stock of international efforts to beat back the deadly epidemic.
"I want to see the response for myself and show my solidarity with those affected and urge even greater global action," Ban told a news conference at UN headquarters.
Ban will travel to Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Mali, where the United Nations is leading the response to the health crisis. He will also go to Ghana, where the UN Ebola mission is headquartered.
The visit comes a year after the outbreak began in Guinea and follows sharp criticism from non-governmental organisations that UN agencies like the World Health Organization were too slow to respond.
Ban said more financial help and health workers are needed to fight Ebola, which has killed more than 6,800 people, almost all of them in West Africa.
"The Ebola response strategy is working, and we are beginning to see improvements," said Ban.
"But now is not the time to ease up on our efforts.... We must do everything we can to get to zero." Last month, Ban had said that with stepped up international mobilisation, the outbreak could be brought under control in 2015.
The UN Security Council has declared the Ebola outbreak a threat to international security and peace, and US Ambassador Samantha Power paid a visit to West Africa in October.
Concern has focused recently on Sierra Leone, where the number of infections continues to surge, and deep in the forested areas of Guinea. However, the caseload has decreased in Liberia.
Sierra Leone on Wednesday imposed strict measures including a ban on New Year revelries, travel restrictions and door-to-door monitoring in a bid to stem the spread of Ebola.
"Our country is at war with a vicious enemy that is taking the lives of our people," Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma said in a radio address announcing the measures.
Ban is due to meet with leaders in all five countries, along with UN staff and health care workers on the frontlines of the fight against Ebola.