A woman looks at the obituary notices for medical staff who have died from the Ebola virus at the Kenema government hospital in Sierra Leone, August 16, 2014
Freetown (AFP) - Sierra Leone on Monday urged caution over the use of experimental drugs to combat Ebola as the United Nations launched an $18 million appeal to help the country cope with the epidemic.
Health Minister Miatta Kargbo told journalists that the country was following advice from the World Health Organization, which was "lukewarm" about using untested serums.
"WHO has cautioned us about the risks involved as these drugs have not yet been certified and are still unregistered and untested," he said.
The UN's appeal is aimed at meeting a huge shortfall in the poverty-stricken country's $26 million emergency plan to counter the disease, which has so far claimed 348 lives in Sierra Leone.
Kargbo warned that the fight to contain the outbreak was being hampered by a lack of medical staff. "Human resources continue to be a problem as more doctors are needed to combat the outbreak.
"We look forward to an increased number of survivors, which would greatly assist us in the campaign against the virus," he added, referring to the widespread myth that it is always fatal.
Dr Benet Ndyanadangi of the UN Population Fund said they had so far trained 899 tracers to find people who may have been in contact with those infected with Ebola and bring them into quarantine centres.
He said the tracers could prove vital in bringing Ebola under control.
"By the end of the week, another 860 will be onboard and by early September we can expect a total of 100 in each district in the country," he said.
Sierra Leone's President Ernest Koroma said Friday that cash aid was desperately needed to manage clinics, trace infected people and conduct public awareness campaigns.
The UN chief in Freetown Jens Anders Toyberg-Frandzen said another appeal is in the pipeline from the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) for more than $60 million for food aid in Ebola-hit areas.