Africa

Ebola-hit Liberia fires absentee ministers

Liberia's president has fired ministers after they failed to return to the Ebola-hit country. (AAP)

Liberia's president has fired a number of ministers and staff after they failed to return to the Ebola-hit country as the virus continues to spread.

Liberia's leader has sacked ministers and senior government officials who defied an order to return to the west African nation to lead the fight against the deadly Ebola outbreak, her office says.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf had told overseas ministers to return within a week as part of a state-of-emergency announcement on August 6, warning that extraordinary measures were needed "for the very survival of our state".

Sirleaf "directed that all officials occupying ministerial level positions or equivalent - senior and junior - managing directors, deputy/assistant directors or equivalent, commissioners et cetera who violated the orders are hereby relieved of their positions," her office said in a statement on Tuesday.

It did not say how many ministers were affected or who had been fired.

But a government insider clarified that only deputy ministers and senior officials were involved in the dismissal, and not cabinet-level ministers.

United Nations officials have pledged to step up efforts against the lethal tropical virus, which has infected more than 2600 and killed 1427 since the start of the year.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Monday more than 120 health workers across west Africa had died during the "unprecedented" outbreak, and more than 240 had been infected.

In Sierra Leone, the WHO has temporarily pulled back its health workers from the Kailahun post after one of them was infected and an investigation is under way to prevent further infections before sending a team back there.

"This was the responsible thing to do. The field team has been through a traumatic time through this incident," said Dr Daniel Kertesz, WHO representative in Sierra Leone, in a statement.

And late on Tuesday Nigeria announced that it was delaying the resumption of classes in all primary and secondary schools by a month due to the Ebola outbreak.

"This is to ensure that adequate preventive measures are put in place before students resume," said Education Minister Ibrahim Shekarau.

Meanwhile the African Development Bank warned on Tuesday the epidemic could cut economic output in the three worst-hit countries, as well as neighbouring Ivory Coast, by between one and 1.5 per cent of gross economic product.

"If people don't start worrying about agriculture, there is going to be a food crisis. That will be the first direct impact on farmers in this region," said president Donald Kaberuka.

A second front has opened up in Africa's struggle with Ebola, after the Democratic Republic of Congo said on Tuesday it was preparing for a "battle of at least three months" after 13 people died after contracting the virus in the remote northeast.

Congolese authorities said the outbreak concerned Zaire Ebola, the species that is ravaging west Africa, but said the two outbreaks were not linked.

Meanwhile a British nurse infected with Ebola while working in Sierra Leone is being given the same experimental drug used on two US missionaries who have recovered for the disease, doctors in London said.

William Pooley, 29, is being treated with ZMapp after being flown out of Sierra Leone on a specially-equipped British military plane on Sunday.

Guinea, where the disease was first discovered, has reported 406 deaths, Sierra Leone 392 and Nigeria five, the WHO said on Friday.

Liberia has suffered the worst effects of the outbreak, registering 624 deaths.

Ivorian Health Minister Raymonde Goudou Coffie told journalists in Abidjan that it was "uncanny" that the country has so far no reported cases of Ebola which is ravaging neighbouring Guinea and Liberia.

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch