A UN commission has asked for more debt cancellations for the three West African nations hardest hit by the Ebola virus.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa said on Monday that it was crucial the current Ebola health crisis would not become a catalyst for financial distress in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.

Carlos Lopez, a UN under secretary-general and the executive secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa, appealed in Ethiopia on Monday for loan relief.

Lopez's comments come just days after the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) said that measures to address the epidemic had to include longer-term efforts to strengthen health systems in those countries hit the hardest.

"It is critical for the international community to join forces to address the multidimensional nature of the Ebola outbreak that threatens millions of the poorest and the most vulnerable," ECOSOC President, Martin Sajdik, said.

"Sustained global action includes funding, technical assistance and management of resources in the affected countries,"
 

More than 6,800 people have now died from the Ebola virus, almost all of them in west Africa, the World Health Organization said on Monday. 

The UN health agency reported that as of December 13, there had been 18,464 cases of infection from the deadly virus in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, and 6,841 people had died.

WHO did not provide an update of cases in other countries, but last week said the death toll remained the same: six in Mali, one in the United States, and eight in Nigeria, which was declared Ebola free in October.

Spain and Senegal, which have both been declared free from Ebola, meanwhile 
counted one case each, but no deaths.

As of the latest figures up to December 7, a total of 639 healthcare workers were known to have contracted the virus, and 349 of them had died, WHO said. 

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Source: Agencies