Ebola response in ‘high-gear’ as UN official warns ‘things will get worse before they improve’

A C160 German aircraft at Kotoka International Airport in the Ghanaian capital of Accra delivering needed supplies and material to countries in western Africa affected by the Ebola virus. Photo: UNMEER/Aaron J. Buckley

15 October 2014 – The United Nations continues to ramp-up its Ebola response, reaching more than 530,000 people with food assistance in hard-hit Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, and, in the latter country, gathering survivors for a meeting to help deal with the psychological aftermath and stigma they face re-entering their communities.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) announced today that its logistical support to the global Ebola response is in “high gear” – with the latest supply en route from Italy to Liberia.

The flight, carrying 58 metric tons of supplies including water tanks, washing units and generators, is one in a series of dispatches this week containing protective gear, emergency health kits, relief items and other equipment for use throughout the affected region.

“The world is mobilizing and we need to reach the smallest villages in the most remote locations. Indications are that things will only get worse before they improve. How much worse depends on us all,” said Denise Brown, WFP’s Regional Director for West Africa.

In addition to supply flights, the WFP is delivering 7,000 metric tons of rice by ship scheduled to reach Sierra Leone by the end of the week, before heading to Liberia’s capital of Monrovia. There, WFP is also running a logistics hub with plans to set up 12 more in remote areas in affected countries.

An additional 100 WFP staff – engineers, operations support officers and telecommunications specialists – have been mobilized across the region to support more than 360 WFP colleagues already on the ground.

This ship in Las Palmas, Spain, is being loaded with WFP supplies and 1,920 metric tons of USAID-donated commodities and headed for Ebola response operations in Guinea. Photo: WFP/Enrique Pulido

Also on the ground, the first-ever UN emergency health mission, the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER), is working to respond to immediate needs related to the fight against Ebola while supporting the operations of its partners in the Organization’s wider response, including WFP and the UN World Health Organization (WHO).

UNMEER chief, Anthony Banbury, today welcomed the arrival of a German aircraft which will be delivering needed supplies and material to countries in western Africa affected by the Ebola virus.

"This flight is a welcome reflection of the international community's support for the efforts to stop Ebola and help those affected by it – this support is vital if we are to stop the virus," Mr. Banbury said. "I hope that we will see more of this in the coming days and weeks."

The C160 aircraft, from the German air force, arrived at Kotoka International Airport in the Ghanaian capital of Accra today, where it was loaded with UN humanitarian supplies and equipment.

These include materials to construct warehouses that will be used in the logistics supply chain for future aid delivery in Sierra Leone and five tonnes of high-energy biscuits for delivery to people affected by the crisis in Guinea.

UNMEER liaison officers led the project that will use the UN humanitarian air corridor set up to help rapidly deploy aid to the field. The aircraft will make its first flight to Sierra Leone on Thursday and then return to Accra before flying to Guinea.

The deliveries include materials to construct warehouses that will be used in the logistics supply chain for future aid delivery in Sierra Leone. Photo: UNMEER/Aaron J. Buckley

The ongoing UN effort to scale up the response and alert the international community to the breadth of the crisis was also bolstered today by the Security Council, which issued a Presidential Statement recognizing the strenuous efforts made by West African Member States, especially Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, to lead the ground-level response, as well as to address the wider political, security, socioeconomic and humanitarian impacts of the Ebola outbreak on community’s.

The members of the Council also affirmed the importance of preparedness by all Member States to detect, prevent, respond to, isolate and mitigate suspected cases of Ebola within and across borders. They also recalled the International Health Regulations (2005), which aim to improve the capacity of all countries to detect, assess, notify and respond to public health threats.

Meanwhile, later this week 35 Ebola survivors will meet in Kenema, one of the epicentres of the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, to share their stories on overcoming the scourge and discuss how best to deal with the psychological aftermath, UNICEF announced today.

The conference, the first in a series of similar meetings planned over the next six months, hopes to involved people who have survived Ebola and are now immune to it, involved in the regional response.

Survivors will also have a chance to meet mental health experts to discuss the many hardships that arise after they recover from Ebola, including being stigmatised and shunned by their own communities.

“A key challenge that parents, care workers and many of us working on the Ebola response are facing is how to care for children who have been affected or infected with Ebola without putting their care givers at risk,” said Roeland Monasch, UNICEF Representative in Sierra Leone.

“One creative way to address this gap is to work with Ebola survivors who can provide these children with the love, care and attention they so badly need,” he added.

People who have survived Ebola often face high levels of stigma, shame and discrimination from their own communities. UNICEF says children are particularly vulnerable, especially when they or their parents have to be isolated for treatment.

About 96 per cent of the 1,400 households surveyed in a recent UNICEF study reported some discriminatory attitude toward people with suspected or confirmed Ebola. About 76 per cent said they would not welcome an Ebola survivor back into their community.

According to WHO, more than 650 adults have survived Ebola since the beginning of the outbreak in Sierra Leone.

News Tracker: past stories on this issue

Strong community engagement, activism key to defeating Ebola in West Africa – UN official

Related Stories

More videos »

In-depth Interviews