The number of deaths from the Ebola virus in Liberia is much higher than being reported, experts warn.
Liberia is the country hit hardest by the Ebola virus, accounting for more than half of all deaths. The World Health Organization pegs the number of dead at 2,458, but one of Africa’s most influential filmmakers claims otherwise.
Sorious Samura, who is making a documentary on the Ebola crisis in Liberia, said the true death toll is actually much higher. He claims that Liberian officials are downplaying the number of cases in order to temper down panic in the region.
“People are dying in greater numbers than we know, according to MSF [Médecins sans Frontières] and WHO officials. Certain departments are refusing to give them the figures – because the lower it is, the more peace of mind they can give people. The truth is that it is still not under control.”
Samura added that local customs have made it difficult to stop the spread of the Ebola virus. The Liberian government has mandated that all Ebola victims be cremated after death, but locals have resisted, and are clinging to traditions that include touching the body after death.
“They don’t like this burning of bodies,” said Samura. “Before the government gets there they will have buried their loved ones and broken all the rules.”
Others have joined Samura in claiming that death toll estimates are too low. The WHO has already admitted that poor reporting practices and difficulties with data gathering have made it hard to accurately follow the spread of the virus.
Experts have also had difficulties projecting the growth of the Ebola virus. While some believe it will peak sometime in early 2015 before eventually leveling off, others see a wider growth that can become unchecked. The most drastic predictions include more than 25,000 cases a week by early next year, with the Ebola virus spreading well beyond Africa.