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Latest News: G20 says nearing growth goal, but more needed from Europe

By Ian Chua and Cecile Lefort

CAIRNS Australia (Reuters) - The Group of 20 leading nations say they are tantalisingly close to adding an extra $2 trillion (1.23 trillion British pound) to the global economy and creating millions of new jobs, but Europe's extended stagnation remains a major stumbling block.

The finance ministers and central bank chiefs gathered in the Australian city of Cairns claimed progress on fireproofing the world's financial system and on closing tax loopholes exploited by giant multinationals.

They also dealt with the thorny problem of whether to invite Russian President Vladimir Putin to the G20 leaders' summit in November given events in Ukraine, with the consensus being to maintain diplomatic pressure but leave the door open for his attendance.

"We are determined to lift growth, and countries are willing to use all our macroeconomic levers – monetary, fiscal and structural policies – to meet this challenge," said Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey, who hosted the event.

Almost 1,000 measures had been proposed that would boost global growth by 1.8 percent by 2018, nearing the ambitious goal of 2 percentage points adopted back in February.

A common concern was the risk of Europe's economic malaise pulling others down. U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew cited "philosophical" differences with some of his counterparts in Europe, especially on the need for near-term stimulus.

"The concern that I have is that if the efforts to boost demand are deferred for too long, there's a risk that the headwinds get stronger and what Europe needs is some more tailwinds in the economy," said Lew.

That was not an argument that found favour with German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble who emphasised the need for structural reforms and strict budget controls.

The proposals to lift global growth will now go for formal approval at the summit of G20 leaders in Brisbane in November.

Chief among them was a global initiative aimed at increasing private investment in infrastructure, a particular hobby horse of the Australians who head the G20 this year.

CHINA GETS A PASS

While Europe's failings were front and centre, there was surprisingly little said about China's slowdown, at least publicly. That struck some as odd given the Asian giant was just behind the United States in the size of its economy.

"Our basic point on the aspirational growth target is that with China slowing down in a structural sense... it will be exceedingly difficult to hit that (2 percent) number, given China's massive arithmetic impact," said Huw McKay, a senior international economist at Westpac.

China's finance chief, Lou Jiwei, noted that stimulus measures also brought problems such as excess capacity, environmental pollution and growing local government debt, just the latest sign that any policy easing there would be limited.

The risks that super-loose monetary policy could inflate asset bubbles was also much discussed by the G20, along with the need for the U.S. Federal Reserve to avoid spooking markets as it winds down its quantitative easing campaign.

The Fed is widely expected to end its asset-buying programme in October and to start raising interest rates next year, a marked contrast to the European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan where even more easing might be needed.

BANK BUFFERS

Regulators are looking at increasing the size of the capital buffer that the world's top banks need to hold to reduce the risk of a repeat of the global financial crisis.

European Central Bank Governing Council member Christian Noyer said a buffer of about 16 percent of risk-weighted assets was realistic but had not been finalised. A figure would be announced at the leaders summit, he said.

Also on the drawing board were plans to stem the loss of revenue from multinationals shifting their profits to low-tax countries, potentially reclaiming billions of dollars.

Taxation arrangements of global companies such as Google Inc, Apple Inc and Amazon.com Inc have become a hot political topic following media and parliamentary investigations into how many companies reduce their bills.

"We have endorsed far-reaching initiatives to identify and catch tax cheats through the automatic exchange of information using a Common Reporting Standard," said Australia's Hockey.

"We encourage others to match this commitment so that there are no places to hide."

(Additional reporting by Leika Kihara, Byron Kaye, Gernot Heller and Lincoln Feast; Writing by Wayne Cole; Editing by John Mair)

Latest News: VIDEO: Are disability hate crimes ignored?

A former director of prosecutions has said victims of disability hate crime are being failed by the police and the courts.

Lord Ken MacDonald described the issue as a "scar on the conscience of the criminal justice system".

Figures show that of the people who felt they were targeted because of their disability, only 1% of cases were treated as a hate crime by the courts.

Nikki Fox reports.

Latest News: VIDEO: Inside London hospital's 'eye bank'

BBC Inside Out has met the patients who have been given a new lease of life as a result of eye donations and transplants.

Reporter Nikki Bedi talked to Chris Watkins, who suffers from Fuchs' Dystrophy which, if left untreated, can lead to blindness.

Last year, 750 corneal transplants were carried out at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London.

Inside Out went inside the hospital's 'eye bank' where donated eyes are kept for use on patients from one-month-old to 100-years-old.

But there is a serious shortage of eye donors as a result of an increase in demand for eye operations.

Inside Out London is broadcast on Monday, 22 September on BBC ONE at 19:30 GMT and nationwide on the iPlayer for seven days thereafter.

Latest News: Criticism grows as Sierra Leone's Ebola shutdown enters final day

Sierra Leone's 72-hour nationwide shutdown entered its final day on Sunday, as criticism grew that the extreme action aimed at containing the spread of the deadly Ebola virus was no more than a poorly planned publicity stunt.

Most of the west African country's six million people have been confined to their homes since midnight (0000 GMT) on Friday, with only essential workers such as health professionals and security forces exempt.

Almost 30,000 volunteers are going door-to-door to educate locals and hand out soap, in an exercise expected to lead to scores more patients and bodies being discovered in homes.

But independent observers have voiced concerns over the quality of advice being given out, deeming the shutdown a "mixed success" in the Western Area, the region that includes the capital Freetown.

"While the supervisors were well trained, the visiting teams to families in some parts in the Western Area had poor training and could not deliver the information properly," said Abubakarr Kamara, from the Health for All Coalition, a local charity.

"From my observation, many of them were too young to be involved in the exercise and in one or two households where I witnessed their intervention, there were hardly messages given to the families which were beneficial to the households."

Ebola fever can fell its victims within days, causing severe muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhoea and -- in some cases -- unstoppable internal and external bleeding.

The outbreak has killed more than 2,600 people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone this year, cutting a swathe through entire villages at the epicentre and prompting warnings over possible economic catastrophe from the World Bank.

The widespread fallout from the outbreak was underlined by India's decision Saturday to postpone plans for a summit in New Delhi to be attended by representatives of more than 50 African nations.

The spread of the virus made it "logistically difficult given the public health guidelines to manage" the Third India-Africa Forum Summit, said a foreign ministry official.

- 'Publicity stunt' -

Joe Amon, health and human rights director at New York-based advocacy organisation Human Rights Watch, described the shutdown as "more of a publicity stunt than a health intervention".

"Publicity -- or really crisis communication -- is what is urgently needed in this epidemic, but it should focus on spreading information and building trust with the government. The shutdown is the wrong approach," he told AFP.

Steven Gaoja, head of the government's emergency Ebola operation centre, admitted the first day was "really very rocky" at the start, but said organisation had improved.

"On the whole we came out successful. We feel confident that the initial problems we encountered have been slashed," he said.

"We have a target to reach every household in the country and the goal is to ensure that families have the right information about Ebola," said ministry of health spokesman Sidi Yahya Tunis.

"We are certain we will reach the target so people have to be a little patient."

Some complaints continued into Saturday.

"The campaign teams are not being rapid in their calls. They kept my family of six sitting the whole of yesterday and didn't show up," said Ghanaian fisherman Kwaku Adophy in Goderich, an affluent seaside suburb of 3,000 in the west end of Freetown.

"When they came this morning, nobody entered the compound but one member stood at the gate and shouted for us to come out and receive a bar of soap. No other information was given to us. We are very disappointed."

But there was also praise.

Isatu Koroma, a resident of Hill Station some six kilometres (four miles) away, said however that a team had spent "a useful 30 minutes giving my family much needed information".

A spokesman for the World Health Organization said on Friday a contingent of Cuban doctors and nurses from a 165-strong delegation expected in Sierra Leone would be arriving over the weekend.

From the first week of October, the doctors and nurses would remain for six months.

Meanwhile in Madrid, officials said a plane was being dispatched to fly a Catholic missionary infected with Ebola home from Sierra Leone.

Brother Manuel Garcia Viejo, 69, director of a hospital in the Sierra Leonean town of Lunsar, is the second Spaniard to contract the virus in the current outbreak.

Latest News: Jobless and poor, Ghana's youth turn to selling blood

To Ghana's legions of jobless young men, Eric Bimpong has a money-making proposition: sell your blood.

Bimpong spends his days outside schools, bars and on the streets of poor neighbourhoods in Accra, scouring for teenagers and 20-somethings to give blood outside the capital's largest hospital.

Commercial blood donors, as the authorities call them, fill a void in a country where blood is often in short supply and cultural and religious beliefs keep some from donating.

When a patient needs blood and the blood banks are empty and family and friends unavailable or unwilling to donate, the paid donors step in for a price.

"In this country, when people go to the hospital, they don't want their relatives to know," to hide certain illnesses, Bimpong said. "So they come to us."

While their donations likely save the lives of bleeding patients, public health officials worry that the donors spread diseases like HIV or hepatitis to those who receive their blood.

"It's abnormal. We don't really encourage this kind of donation," said Stephen Addai, a spokesman for Ghana's National Blood Service. (NBS)

"Sometimes they don't even know their blood group."

- Fear of needles, disease -

Ghana has prospered in recent years off exports of gold, cocoa and oil as well as the country's reputation as a rare stable democracy in tumultuous West Africa.

While its economy has recently begun slowing down, Ghana's government is investing heavily in building new hospitals and renewing old facilities.

But keeping blood banks stocked remains a constant struggle, Addai said.

The NBS usually relies on students to donate the approximately 250 units per-day of blood used in the southern third of the country, which includes the capital.

But they still run short, particularly when students go on holiday, Addai said.

The NBS has sounded the alarm about blood shortages repeatedly on radio stations and in newspapers, encouraging people to come out and donate.

During a recent blood donor drive at a shopping mall in Accra, the NBS hoped to get 1,500 donors, Addai said. Instead, they got just five.

"They are afraid of the syringe," Addai said. "They are not aware of the importance of it because of certain beliefs. They've heard stories of certain diseases."

- Chronic blood shortages -

Chronic blood shortages have forced hospital blood centres to improvise.

When a patient arrives in need of blood and a hospital has none to offer, nearby clinics are contacted to see if they might have some available, Addai said.

If the clinics don't, family members are called to come and donate. Friends will suffice, too -- if they're willing.

If that fails, "it means that the victim will not survive", Addai said.

More than 42 percent of Ghana's unemployed are aged 15 to 24 and just under a quarter of the population of 26 million live below the poverty line of 3.60 cedi ($1, 0.77 euros per day).

As a result, Bimpong finds a ready supply of volunteers at high schools, drinking spots and in market places.

"I go to places where I can see people are not working," he explained.

The going-rate per pint (0.57 litres) of blood is between 100 cedis and 120 cedis. Bimpong keeps 20 cedis for himself.

According to Addai, donated blood is tested for HIV, hepatitis B and C and syphilis and donors are asked if they've been sick with malaria.

Despite screening, there have been a number of cases involving contaminated blood in other parts of the world.

From the 1970s onwards, more than half a dozen countries, including Britain, France, Italy and Japan, were hit by scandals over tainted blood for transfusion. The biggest scare was over contamination by the AIDS virus.

Last July, the medical journal The Lancet published a study saying that one in almost 3,000 blood donors in England carry hepatitis E and that small amounts of the virus had made it into blood banks.

But Bimpong shrugs off concerns about safety.

Laboratories should be responsible for screening, he said, adding: "It's not up to me."

- 'We are helping people' -

Inside the packed waiting room of the blood centre at Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, signs encourage people to donate every four months.

When a face becomes too familiar, it's likely that person is a commercial donor, said Victoria Atiapah, a nurse at the centre.

"When you see them the first time, they say they're relatives. But when they come the second time, third time, then you know," Atiapah said.

Anyone who tries to donate more often than the recommended four months is turned away, she said.

Jean-Pierre Allain, a professor at the haematology department of the University of Cambridge in Britain, said that commercial blood donors make up perhaps less than 10 percent of donors in Ghana.

In Nigeria the rate is between 30 and 60 percent.

But Ghana's rate of hepatitis, which is spread through blood, is about 15 percent and a worrying sign, Allain said, estimating that about 10 percent of donors have the virus.

Bimpong, though, is unconcerned about the impact of his business. A man has to make a living, he said as he sat outside a kiosk selling sodas and meat pies to nurses and patients at Korle Bu.

"This country's hard. No work," he said. "We are helping people."

Latest News: From toilet to table, overcoming the ‘yuk’ factor
Chili pepperThe use of eco toilets not only is preventing diseases by improving sanitation but it could also help the country's food security in the long term, too

Human excrement spread by poor sanitation was to blame for over 9,000 cholera deaths in Haiti, but now, thanks to a simple measure to transform it into nutrient-rich compost, cleanliness has improved - and some enterprising Haitians are able to grow their own fresh food.

Like an oasis in the middle of the desert, Francois France's garden is probably the greenest area in Cite Soleil, the biggest slum in Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas.

In an area where it is hard to find even a tree, Francois grows carrots, peppers and callaloo - a leafy vegetable traditionally used for soups - in his garden.

But it was not easy for him to tempt his neighbours to eat them, as he uses human waste as a fertiliser - something of a taboo in these parts.

Leafy crops using human waste as compostIt took a while before Haitians started to appreciate crops grown in the human waste fertiliser

"At the beginning some people said they didn't want to eat food from this garden because it was grown in the soil from the toilets," says Francois.

Things started to change when he got his first harvest. Neighbours saw the vegetables and they spread the word. Little by little, the residents are getting over the taboo.

"Now when they see how the plants grow, they realise there's no contamination and everyone in Cite Soleil would like to have a garden like this for themselves," he says.

Open latrine

France runs an urban garden that uses compost from eco-friendly toilets, a system promoted by SOIL, an NGO that aims to improve sanitation in Haiti.

The BBC's Lorena Arroyo investigates how Haiti's eco friendly toilets work

When SOIL was founded back in 2006, only 4% of the rural population had access to proper toilets. Even in the capital Port-au-Prince it was only slightly higher at 6%, according to SOIL's co-founder Baudeler Magloire.

Many toilets which do exist often flush untreated waste straight into rivers or groundwater.

Open defecation in the streets led to the spread of disease.

After the devastating 2010 earthquake that killed more than 250,000 people and left 1.5 million living in temporary camps, poor sanitation caused a health crisis.

Cholera, a disease transmitted by drinking water or eating food contaminated by the faeces of an infected person, broke out later that year killing more than 9,000 people.

When cholera struck SOIL had already taken composting toilets to different parts of the country, but the fatal disease proved a setback.

Eco-friendly toiletThese toilets are, at the same time, preventing diseases and saving lives in vulnerable, displaced communities

At first glance, an eco toilet doesn't look too different from a portable toilet. The difference is inside.

Faeces and urine are collected in separate drums and, after each use, a layer of sawdust-like material made from sugar cane waste and peanut shells is added on top. This reduces the risk of infection and masks unpleasant odours.

Eco toilet

However, during the cholera outbreak Haitians were told that poor sanitation was to blame, so many people thought collecting human waste added to the problem.

As a result, the NGO was asked to leave their neighbourhoods and take their toilets with them.

"In Haiti, when you talk to people about sanitation they're afraid of it," says Jimmy Louis, Sanitation Coordinator of SOIL.

'Own toilet'

But the organisation decided to face the criticism by raising awareness about sanitation and inviting community leaders to their facilities to see for themselves how the toilets worked.

Now, more than 8,000 people have access to these toilets in Haiti, a country of about 10 million people.

Eco toiletHuman waste is collected in gallons like this one. Once full, the NGO takes it to a composting site

According to Erica Lloyd, SOIL's Program Manager in Port-au-Prince, most of the users of the eco toilets didn't have access to toilets before.

"People don't want that. Given the choice to have safe sanitation, people want that for themselves and for their communities and we actually have a waiting list to have a toilet."

One of them is Midi Idemon. He lives in the Gerald Bataille district in Port-au-Prince, and says the eco toilets dignified his family's lives.

"Before we had these toilets, there was a communal latrine. It wasn't good because some people didn't clean it, it smelt bad and there was a high risk of getting diseases.

"With this project, we have a better life because at night you can wake up, open your door, use the bathroom and clean your own toilet."

Human waste mixed with organic material from sugar cane When mixing human waste with sugar cane the unpleasant odours practically disappear

For Paul Christian Namphy, Coordinator for Haiti's Water and Sanitation Authority DINEPA, ecological sanitation is an important initiative for preventing cholera, offering a lot of promise for the future of Haiti.

"Cholera is the disease of the poor, of the disenfranchised, it's the disease of those that for centuries have not had the minimum of what people need to have a dignified existence.

Start Quote

It's like a circle: eat, go to the toilet and then give back to nature”

End Quote Jimmy Louis Sanitation Coordinator, SOIL

"We need to make sure that people have access to treated water, to basic sanitation services and to hygiene practices that make it possible to cut the chain of transmission."

One year and 50+ Celsius

In order to stop the transmission of cholera and other diseases, SOIL collects human waste from the communities four times a month and takes it to a composting site where dangerous bacteria are killed.

The compost is left between 8 and 12 months in different piles outdoors at a high temperature (more than 54 degrees Celsius) to kill the most resistant bacteria.

Composting site in HaitiTemperatures get so high inside the piles of waste that dangerous bacteria are killed

It's a "relative inexpensive" process, as SOIL's Erica Lloyd puts it, because "Mother Nature does the hard work there". High temperatures are reached through sun exposure and SOIL only pays for the cleaning supplies.

After that time, it becomes a safe compost that can be used as a fertiliser.

"It's like a circle: eat, go to the toilet and then give back to nature. The main idea is to recycle the resources," says Jimmy Louis.

This organic fertiliser, which is sold to local farmers, is already being used in the garden at SOIL's headquarters to produce different vegetables such as corn, spinach, potatoes, peppers and rice. They're now testing how the compost works with aubergines and beans.

And in a country where, according to the World Food Programme (WFP), nearly a third of the population suffer from food insecurity and 600,000 people need external food assistance to survive, this can help tackle a big problem.

This is what France is trying to do from his community garden in Cite Soleil, where he teaches children and young people to grow plants in old tires and compost soil.

"Almost everybody who lives in Cite Soleil is from the countryside, so instead of going to the streets to sell water or other things they know, they can learn to care for their own gardens."

Latest News: Bill Clinton says must 'do whatever it takes' to fight Ebola

By Caren Bohan and Sharon Begley

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - New initiatives from the United States, Britain, France and other countries to help fight the Ebola epidemic that has been spreading exponentially in West Africa marked a "good beginning," former President Bill Clinton said on Saturday, but said the world will need to do more.

"We're still a little behind the curve but we're getting there," Clinton told reporters in a conference call, a day before his charity, the Clinton Global Initiative, was set to begin its 10th annual meeting in New York.

A chartered 747 jet, carrying the largest single shipment of aid to the Ebola zone to date and coordinated by CGI and other U.S. aid organizations, departed New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport on Saturday afternoon bound for West Africa.

After refueling in Cape Verde, the Kalitta Air charter is scheduled to land in Freetown, Sierra Leone, on Sunday morning.

The shipment of 170 pallets containing gloves, gowns and other protective equipment for medical workers will be met by government officials and local aid workers, and distributed to some 200 healthcare facilities on Monday, said Thomas Tighe, chief executive of the California-based aid group Direct Relief, which collected the 100 tons of emergency medical aid.

Because Sierra Leone on Friday started a three-day government-ordered lockdown that prohibits most people from leaving their homes as health workers and others go door-to-door to educate people about Ebola and isolate the sick, the volunteers who will off-load the Direct Relief supplies have been staying at the airport for days.

The plane will continue on to Monrovia, Liberia, to deliver the rest of its cargo: 2.8 million gloves, 170,000 protective gowns, 120,000 masks, 40,000 liters of pre-mixed oral hydration solution, and 9.8 million doses of medications. The protective equipment can supply 280 healthcare workers treating Ebola patients for one year.

Since the outbreak was detected in March, Ebola has infected at least 5,357 people, according to the World Health Organization, mostly in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, and killed an estimated 2,630. It has also spread to Senegal and Nigeria.

In a major expansion of the U.S. effort against Ebola, President Barack Obama this week announced that the United States would send 3,000 troops to West Africa help tackle the outbreak, including a major deployment in Liberia.

"We're going to have to do whatever it takes to contain the epidemic," Clinton said.

"It's a sprawling, growing thing. But at least they're putting the infrastructure in and have shown a willingness to put some money behind it, and I think it's a good beginning."

In a brief ceremony before the 747 taxied down the runway at JFK, Liberia's minister of foreign affairs, Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan, said the aid shipment "will translate into saving lives." He added, "We have been able to place men on the moon. Let us do a similar thing for mankind. I appeal to the international community."

(Reporting by Caren Bohan and Sharon Begley; Editing by Leslie Adler)

Latest News: How Liberia lost its handshake
Shaking handsPeople in Liberia are advised not to shake hands in an attempt to stop the spread of Ebola

Families and communities have been devastated by the deaths caused by West Africa's Ebola outbreak. But the disease also has consequences for the region's way of life, and in particular their traditional greetings.

One of the things the people of West Africa are very good at is greeting each other. In most of the region's countries it would be positively rude to exchange a passing, British-style "Hello, how are you?" and walk on.

In West Africa the normal thing to do would be to stop, reach out one hand, or even two, shake warmly and then embrace.

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This is followed by much backslapping, more handshaking on points of agreement and even the odd high five.

It's what children do, it's what men do, it's what elderly ladies do.

Well, not any more. Ebola is spread by contact with bodily fluids, so these days people shun contact with others - including handshakes.

Of course, the worst impact of this disease has been on those who have contracted it, and their loved ones. But the end of shaking hands has affected everyone, everywhere in the region.

The country that's been worst affected by Ebola - with the most deaths - is Liberia.

After President Barack Obama announced the US would be sending 3,000 troops to oversee the building of new treatment centres and help train medical staff in the country, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf broadcasted a "Thank-you" speech to the US. She also told Liberians: "Ebola will not defeat us."

View of gloves and boots used by medical staff, drying in the sun, at a centre for victims of the Ebola virus in Guekedou, on 1 April 2014Medical staff wear rubber gloves that must be regularly disinfected

President Johnson Sirleaf had earlier said the disease was damaging Liberians' way of life. One thing she was surely referring to was the unusual Liberian handshake.

It's been called the "Liberian finger snap". If that sounds painful, it isn't. But it is rather tricky to master.

The finger snap involves clasping hands in the normal way. But then - as the hands are released - each partner clicks the fingers of the other. This produces two loud snapping sounds.

A demonstration of 'the Liberian finger snap'

It's something of a point of honour to make the pair of snaps as strong - and therefore as loud - as possible. The louder the snaps, the greater the friendship. But not any more.

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Ebola virus disease (EVD)
  • Symptoms include high fever, bleeding and central nervous system damage
  • Spread by body fluids, such as blood and saliva
  • Current outbreak has mortality rate of about 55%
  • Incubation period is two to 21 days
  • There is no proven vaccine or cure

How bad can it get?

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I've visited Liberia many times, and I find it impossible to imagine the country without a soundscape of finger snaps. If I, as a foreigner, feel that way, I can't begin to imagine how odd the lack of handshaking must feel for a Liberian.

It's the same across the whole region. In French-speaking parts of West Africa, the traditional greeting of three kisses on the cheek has stopped too.

It's as if this terrible disease, not content with killing thousands of people, wants to rip the beating heart out of a naturally friendly, and communally-minded, population.

Supermarket checkout staff wearing gloves in LiberiaSupermarket employees are now wearing gloves in Liberia

Something similarly shocking is taking place this weekend in Liberia's neighbour, Sierra Leone. It is being devastated by Ebola too, with hospitals overflowing and food prices rising.

In an effort to stop the spread of the disease, the authorities ordered a nationwide three-day lockdown. Everyone is supposed to stay in their homes while health workers mount a nationwide door-to-door check to seek out anyone infected.

The operation is fraught with difficulties and dangers. In the first place, it's far from clear if Sierra Leone has enough qualified health professionals to visit every house and hut in the land. Or what will they do if they find potential patients - the treatment centres are already full to overflowing.

The Sierra Leone government says the desperate situation requires desperate measures. But, even if the lockdown works, it's another example of Ebola changing a country's very way of life.

Liberians wait to clean their handsWashing hands key to fighting the spread of Ebola - but many Liberians do not have running water

Most of its population are very poor. Many work as street traders or day labourers. Very few people have large stocks of food in their cupboards, and only a minority have luxuries like fridges. So they simply have to go out every day to work and shop - otherwise their family will not get fed.

Of course those worst affected by Ebola are the sick, the dying and their families. But everyone is being touched in other terribly important parts of their lives, however seemingly mundane - from the simple handshake to doing the shopping.

The president of Liberia said in her speech: "We are fighting against Ebola. We will win."

If and when this happens, one of the most precious things West Africans get back will be the ability to shake hands again.

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Latest News: Mexican authorities say mine still leaking acid

A Mexican copper mine which spewed millions of gallons of acid into a river last month is still causing pollution and the facility's owners are blocking the work of investigators probing the accident, authorities said.

The massive acid leak in August, involving some 40,000 cubic meters (10.6 million gallons) of sulfuric acid, was one of Mexico's largest ever mining-related environmental disasters.

"As of this moment, the government of Sonora (state) totally breaks off any relationship with the mining company," which is continuing to discharge toxic substances in the river, director of the state civil protection agency, Carlos Arias said at a press conference Friday.

The toxic acid, used to dissolve copper from ore, spilled out of a holding tank at the Buenavista copper mine in Sonora State, one of the largest in the world.

The chemical turned a 60-kilometer (40-mile) stretch of the Sonora River orange, causing authorities to shut off the municipal water supply to 20,000 people in seven towns.

Arias said since the spill, Buenavista, a subsidiary of Grupo Mexico, has blocked access to investigators, and he warned Sonora state authorities would come back -- this time backed up by security forces.

"We will act with the full weight of the law, because they are already in a plan that cannot continue," Arias said, adding the government was mulling permanent closure of the mine.

The mining company "categorically denied the accusations," in a statement Friday night.

"Buenavista del Cobre has worked alongside state authorities," the company said, lamenting "the politicization of the accident."

The mining company has created a fund of two billion pesos ($147 million) to repair the environmental damage. Environmental authorities have also imposed fines of more than 44 million pesos ($3 million) over the spill.

Federal prosecutors are still investigating whether the leak was caused by shoddy construction and installation of the pipeline or, as the company argues, by excessive rains.

Latest News: Spain to fly back missionary with Ebola from S.Leone

Spain is sending a plane to fly a Catholic missionary infected with the deadly Ebola virus home from Sierra Leone, officials said Saturday.

Brother Manuel Garcia Viejo, 69, director of a hospital in the Sierra Leonean town of Lunsar, "has tested positive (for Ebola) and has expressed his desire to be transferred to Spain", the health ministry said in a statement.

He is the second Spaniard to contract Ebola in the current outbreak.

"In the coming hours a medical plane from the defence ministry will set off for Sierra Leone, carrying two doctors and three nurses with all the equipment necessary to protect the personnel and maintain the treatment of the patient," it said.

It said the risk to public health in Spain from the patient was "practically nil".

Garcia is a member of the Hospital Order of San Juan de Dios, a Roman Catholic group that runs Juan Ciudad, a charity working with Ebola victims.

On Saturday he was being treated in an Ebola unit in the Sierra Leone capital Freetown, the order said in a statement.

Garcia, a specialist in internal medicine, is also qualified in tropical medicine. He has worked in Africa for 30 years and has been director of the hospital in Lunsar for the past 12 years, it said.

Sierra Leone on Saturday began the second day of a 72-hour nationwide shutdown aimed at containing the spread of the deadly virus.

Most of the country's six million people were confined to their homes from midnight (0000 GMT) on Friday, with only essential workers such as health professionals and security forces exempt.

Spanish health officials did not expect the curfew to impede their efforts to fly Garcia out of the country, however.

The ministry said late Saturday that his repatriation would take place "in the coming hours" and he would be taken straight to Madrid's La Paz-Carlos III hospital.

In August a 75-year-old Spanish priest became the first European to die from Ebola during the current outbreak in west Africa, the worst since the disease was first discovered four decades ago.

That missionary, Miguel Pajares, was infected in Liberia, where he worked with Ebola patients.

The epidemic has so far killed more than 2,600 people in west Africa, the UN World Health Organization said Thursday.

No vaccine or medicine is available for treating Ebola. Pajares was treated with an experimental US serum, ZMapp, while in isolation in La Paz-Carlos III.

The virus causes severe muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhoea and -- in some cases -- unstoppable internal and external bleeding.

British nurse William Pooley, 29, who was infected with Ebola while working in Sierra Leone, recovered this month following treatment with ZMapp.

France on Friday authorised "experimental treatments" for a French nurse with Ebola who was flown back from Liberia.

Latest News: Sierra Leone Ebola burial team attacked despite lockdown

FREETOWN (Reuters) - A team burying Ebola victims was attacked in Sierra Leone's capital on Saturday, a member of parliament said, as some residents defied a three-day lockdown aimed at halting the worst outbreak of the disease on record.

Claude Kamanda, MP for the Waterloo district of Freetown, said that armed policemen accompanying the burial team quickly arrived, causing the attackers to flee.

Sierra Leone has asked its population of 6 million to stay indoors for three days as volunteers circulate to educate people about the disease as well as isolate the sick and remove the dead.

Ebola has infected at least 5,357 people in West Africa this year, mainly in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, killing 2,630 of those, according to the World Health Organisation.

(Reporting by Umaru Fofana; Writing by Emma Farge; Editing by Leslie Adler)

Latest News: Sierra Leone staggers in Ebola isolation effort

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (AP) — Some in Sierra Leone ran away from their homes Saturday and others clashed with health workers trying to bury dead Ebola victims as the country struggled through the second day of an unprecedented lockdown to combat the deadly disease.

Despite these setbacks, officials said most of Sierra Leone's 6 million people were complying with orders to stay at home as nearly 30,000 volunteers and health care workers fanned out across the country to distribute soap and information on how to prevent Ebola.

The virus, spread by contact with bodily fluids, has killed than 560 people in Sierra Leone and more than 2,600 in West Africa since the outbreak began last December, according to the World Health Organization. It is killing about half of the people it infects.

The streets of the capital, Freetown, were empty Saturday except for the four-person teams going door to door with kits bearing soap, cards listing Ebola symptoms, stickers to mark houses visited and a tally to record suspected cases.

Among the volunteers was Idrissa Kargbo, a well-known marathoner who has qualified for races on three continents but whose training and career have been stymied by the outbreak.

Although early responses to the disease have been marred by suspicion of health workers, Freetown residents on Saturday seemed grateful for any information they could get, Kargbo told The Associated Press.

"Some people are still denying, but now when you go to almost any house they say, 'Come inside, come and teach us what we need to do to prevent,'" Kargbo said. "Nobody is annoyed by us."

Sierra Leone's government is clearly hoping the lockdown will help turn the tide against the disease which the U.N. health agency estimates will take many months to eradicate in the country. In a speech before the lockdown, President Ernest Bai Koroma said "the survival and dignity of each and every Sierra Leonean" was at stake.

The strategy has drawn criticism, however. The charity group Doctors Without Borders warned it would be "extremely difficult for health workers to accurately identify cases through door-to-door screening."

Even if suspected cases are identified during the lockdown, the group said Sierra Leone doesn't have enough beds to treat them.

In a district 20 kilometers (12 miles) east of Freetown, police were called in Saturday to help a burial team that came under attack by residents as they were trying to bury the bodies of five Ebola victims, Sgt. Edward Momoh Brima Lahai said.

A witness told state television the burial team initially had to abandon the five bodies in the street and flee. Lahai said later the burials were successfully completed after police reinforcements arrived. The bodies of Ebola victims are very contagious and must be buried by special teams.

In northern Sierra Leone, health worker Lamin Unisa Camara said Saturday he had received reports that some residents had run away from their homes to avoid being trapped inside during the lockdown.

"People were running from their houses to the bush. Without wasting time, I informed the chief in charge of the area," said Camara, who was working in the town of Kambia.

Several health care workers and volunteers complained that supply kits were delivered late, preventing their teams from starting on time.

But Kargbo, the marathoner, said his team was on track to meet its goal of visiting 60 households by the end of the lockdown Sunday. He said the effort would be worth it if the outbreak is shortened even a little.

Other Freetown residents, however, were having trouble making it through the three days.

"The fact is that we were not happy with the three days, but the president declared that we must sit home," said Abdul Koroma, the father of nine children in Freetown.

"I want to go and find (something) for my children eat, but I do not have the chance," he said.

__

Youssouf Bah in Kambia, Sierra Leone, Michael Duff and Kabba Kargbo in Freetown, Sierra Leone, and Robbie Corey-Boulet in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, contributed to this report.

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