'People afraid of going to hospital' in Ebola-hit W Africa

People infected with malaria refuse to go to hospital amid fears of contracting deadly virus

People infected with malaria refuse to go to hospital amid fears of contracting deadly virus

GENEVA - People wrestling with illness and health problems are afraid of going to hospital in West African countries hit hard by the Ebola outbreak as they fear contracting the disease, according to the World Health Organization.

Tarik Jasaravic, the WHO's official spokesperson, told the Anadolu Agency in Geneva that the Ebola outbreak had seriously affected health systems in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone where 7,693 people had died after 19,695 contracted the disease.

Jasaravic, who had just returned from Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, said: "People are afraid of going to health centers or hospitals - even if they have malaria or other health issues - because hospitals are still associated with Ebola and this makes people reluctant to see a medical advisor.

"Many health centers and hospitals are closed in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone - the number of consultations is decreasing."

He said Ebola had had a devastating impact on the treatment of malaria and roll-out of malaria interventions in particular.

An estimated 20,000 people died from malaria in 2013 out of an estimated 6.6 million cases in the three states, according to the UN health agency.

- 'Children's education affected'

Jasarevic also said thousands of children had lost one or both parents or family members to Ebola since the start of the outbreak. 

He asked: "How will these children be supported to have a normal childhood? This is matter of concern."

"Another issue is that schools are closed and the disruption of their education will affect their development," he added. 

At least five million children aged between three and 17 are unable to return to school, according to the WHO. 

Sierra Leone has the highest number of Ebola cases of the three intense-transmission countries, with 9,203 cases having been reported to date, according to the WHO's latest update on the spread of the disease, although Liberia's death toll of 3,384 is more than the 2,655 recorded in Sierra Leone. 

In Guinea, 1,654 deaths have been reported to date out of 2,630 cases.

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