- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 18, 2014

The number of Ebola-related deaths has reached an even 6,900 in the three most-affected countries in West Africa, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday, the same day the U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and a U.S. senator kicked off tours of the devastated region.

Nearly half of the fatal cases hit Liberia, with 3,290, although the nation is seeing progress while the viral disease continues to rage in Sierra Leone, which has incurred 2,085 Ebola-related deaths.

Mr. Ban started his tour in Accra, Ghana, where the U.N.’s Ebola mission is headquartered. From there, he is set to visit the three hardest-hit countries and Mali, which saw a flare-up of cases in recent weeks but brought transmission under control.

“I want to see the response for myself, and show my solidarity with those affected and urge even greater global action,” Mr. Ban said before he left New York, according to the U.N. daily Ebola mission report. “The Ebola response strategy is working, and we are beginning to see improvements. But now is not the time to ease up on our efforts. As long as there is one case of Ebola, the risk remains.”

Sen. Chris Coons, Delaware Democrat who chairs a subcommittee on African affairs, announced late Thursday that he was flying to Liberia for a four-day visit with American troops who are battling Ebola in Libera.

“There are more than 2,000 U.S. troops currently serving on the front lines of our fight against Ebola, building hospitals and field clinics, but no member of Congress has visited them yet,” he said. “I think it’s important to show them our support, especially during the holiday season while they’re away from their loved ones.”

The senator will not be interacting with infect patients, but will adhere to self-monitoring protocols for the virus when he returns Tuesday, his office said.

Also this week, the U.N. said border closings, crop losses and other fallout from the Ebola outbreak is creating a food emergency at its three-nation epicenter.

More than 1 million people could face shortages by March “unless access to food is drastically improved and measures are put in place to safeguard crop and livestock production,” a pair of U.N. agencies warned.

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