The World Health Organization (WHO) certified this week that more than ten thousand people worldwide–10,141, to be exact–have officially been declared Ebola patients. Of these, almost half (4,922) have died from the disease, and the public health giant warns these estimates are extremely conservative compared to the real numbers.
Reuters reports that the WHO released these figures Saturday as part of a regular update on contamination and death counts globally. Most of the cases have surfaced in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and the nation in which the outbreak started, Guinea. The total includes cases elsewhere, however: Africa, Nigeria, Senegal, Spain, and the United States. A child in Mali was diagnosed with Ebola this weekend, as well, prompting fears that the virus could spread throughout communities in that country.
Reuters notes that the WHO estimates the true number of Ebola patients and deaths to be 1.5 times as much as those reported in Guinea, twice as much in Sierra Leone, and 2.5 times as much in Liberia. Before the latest announcement, the organization had estimated that the true number of Ebola deaths internationally could be as many as 15,000.
The numbers are significantly underreported in large part due to a lack of medical and government infrastructure necessary to keep track of cases, as well as a severe distrust on the part of many West African communities of Western medical professionals. In Sierra Leone, that nation’s largest newspaper, the Awareness Times, has accused the government of claiming a significant number of Ebola patients “missing” or their status “inconclusive” to keep death tolls low and hide their inability to enter homes and sanitize them while removing Ebola victims and properly disposing of remains. In one notable example, a government attempt to bring a nonagenarian to a hospital for Ebola treatment triggered a riot against medical professionals visiting her home at the behest of her criminal son.
In part responding to the rapidly rising number of cases, both the governments of the United States and China have expressed their commitment to helping West African nations contain the outbreak. “We are in this with you for the long haul,” said Samatha Power, America’s ambassador to the United Nations, announcing a visit to Sierra Leone, vowing to fight “the fear and the stigma that are associated with Ebola.” The United States has committed more than $200 million to the fight against Ebola so far, according to the UK Telegraph, as well as military support intended to equip medical personnel to properly combat the disease.
“I have seen how determined the Liberian people are to get on to a brighter future,” Major General Gary J. Volesky, the Navy commander of the U.S. mission to Liberia said to national newspaper Front Page Africa. “When I visited Lofa and Bomi, I could see in their eyes and spirits how determined they are to stop this virus.” The troops are expected to contribute in large part to construction facilities for treating Ebola patients.
The Chinese contribution to the fight against Ebola, despite much fanfare about the might of the Chinese economy, is dwarfed by U.S., British, and other Western contributions. Nonetheless, the Chinese government continues donating to the cause and loudly proclaiming their support to impoverished West African nations. China, claimed Premier Li Keqiang, “sent in humanitarian aid swiftly after the outbreak, and has since offered multiple batches of emergency assistance and dispatched a largest number of medical experts and workers to the affected areas to help with prevention and control efforts,” according to state media outlet Xinhua.
This week, the Chinese government announced an extra $82 million donated to the fight against Ebola, particularly in Liberia. Chinese Ambassador to Liberia Zang Yue vowed that “China will send more health experts and medical staff to help with Ebola control and treatment in West Africa and will also help build an Ebola Treatment Unit and equip it with about 100 beds.” China has previously sent packages of $5 million and $32 million to West Africa to combat the virus.