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UN names Ebola czar for DRC outbreak

An Ebola treatment centre in Butembo, eastern DR Congo - the epicentre of a nearly 10-month-old epidemic that has claimed more than 1,200 lives
An Ebola treatment centre in Butembo, eastern DR Congo - the epicentre of a nearly 10-month-old epidemic that has claimed more than 1,200 lives AFP/File
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Geneva (AFP)

The UN named a pointman on Thursday to coordinate the global response to the devastating Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo, as it ramps up efforts to contain the outbreak.

David Gressly, currently serving as the UN's deputy special representative in DRC, will take charge of the anti-Ebola effort, the World Health Organization said in a statement.

The outbreak declared in eastern DRC last August has killed more than 1,200 people in two provinces -- Ituri and North Kivu -- and new cases have surged in recent weeks.

Containing the virus has proved especially challenging because of militia violence in the region.

"We have no time to lose," Gressly said in the statement, adding that the epidemic required "an enhanced, UN-wide response."

WHO has also accused political leaders in the affected region of manipulating the Ebola issue to turn people against health workers.

The response has been helped by the use of a new vaccine, given to an estimated 120,000 people.

But the UN remains concerned the virus could still spread beyond eastern DRC into neighbouring Uganda and Rwanda.

The outbreak is the second deadliest on record, after an epidemic that killed more than 11,300 people in West Africa in 2014-16.

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