Ebola: UN envoy concludes visits to affected countries, presents ‘robust’ recovery plan

At UN Humanitarian Response Depot (UNHRD) warehouse in Accra, Ghana, UNMEER's head, Anthony Banbury, speaks to some international media outlets on the latest developments in the Ebola Response. Photo: UNMEER/Ari Gaitanis

27 October 2014 – The head of the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) has wrapped up his visits to the three West African countries battling the Ebola outbreak as part of the Organization’s ongoing efforts to drum up international support in tackling the deadly crisis, it was announced today.

Over the past week, UNMEER chief, Anthony Banbury, met with the Presidents of Guinea, Sierra Leone and, on Friday, Liberia, in a series of consultations focusing on how an operational framework for international efforts could be “adapted and implemented to best support the ongoing national responses,” the mission said in a press release.

In addition to his consultations with the leaders, he also engaged in a series of meetings with national and international partners and visits to health facilities under construction to hear and see first-hand how efforts to stop the Ebola virus are progressing.

Developed in a recent high-level meeting of senior UN officials and external stakeholders from the World Bank, the United States’ Centers for Disease Control, and the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development, the UN operational framework was designed to provide a UN response specific to the needs of each country while maintaining the centrality of national ownership.

The Governments of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone – each of which has the final decision on the overall approach and strategy for dealing with Ebola in their respective countries – have national response plans in place and have been responding to the crisis for many months. Those Governments provided input and direction on the operational framework.

“The framework sets out the step-by-step process on how the UN and international partners could support the three governments on achieving the overarching objective of assisting them to become Ebola-free,” UNMEER explained, while underlining its “immediate objective” of 70 per cent of Ebola cases treated and 70 per cent of burials carried out safely by properly trained and equipped teams by 1 December.

The Special Representative's meetings were also aimed at providing him with the opportunity to learn more about the current situation in each country so that UNMEER's resources are well-placed to be effective in the continuously evolving situation on the ground.

Mr. Banbury’s meetings with President of Guinea, Alpha Condé, President of Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Koroma, and with President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, provided inputs and direction for the refining and updating of the operational framework, the UN mission noted. In addition, it would now serve as a guide to be followed by all UN agencies, funds and programmes and form the basis for the UN Ebola Crisis Managers in each country as they engage with their national counterparts.

In Liberia – his second visit to the country since being named UNMEER chief and where he wrapped up his trip this past Friday – he visited Tubmanburg, a town north-west of Monrovia, to see the Ebola treatment unit being built by the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) with the support of United States military.

Praising the dedicated and speedy work of the AFL, Mr. Banbury said the facility was nearly complete and medical staff was shortly expected to arrive to begin testing at the facility. Meanwhile, in his earlier visit to Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, Mr. Banbury inspected the safe burials operations room for the city’s western district.

“All of what I discussed and saw – from my talks with the leaders of each country and my visits to medical facilities being put in place for both Ebola victims and responders, to seeing the level of cooperation between national and international partners such as the AFL and the US military and the Sierra Leonean government and AGI – leads me to believe that we are on right track,” Mr. Banbury said upon his return to UNMEER’s headquarters in Ghana. “There are no differences among us and we have an unparalleled unity of purpose.”

But, the UNMEER head warned, “that does not mean we can afford to let up for a moment.”

“Time is of the essence and we need international support to be ramped up, from more medical supplies to more health care workers in all three countries,” he continued. “Only then, when Ebola is stopped, can the people of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone return to a life free from the fear of this deadly virus.”

Meanwhile, addressing reporters earlier today during his trip to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon emphasized the importance of UNMEER’s role in helping to coordinate the international fight against Ebola and raised the call for more funding for the global response efforts.

“The curve of transmission can be bent down if the needed resources and organization are available,” he said. “We must intensify our efforts in achieving a substantial increase in materials and financial contributions to save lives and protect communities.”

Mr. Ban added that health workers who had plunged into the thick of the crisis were “exceptional people who are giving to humanity” and urged governments and people to avoid stigmatizing them for their “selfless service.”

“We depend on them to fight this battle. Please do not quarantine them because they have volunteered to serve in the affected countries,” he appealed.

According to the UN World Health Organization’s latest situation report, there have been 9,936 cases of Ebola and 4,877 deaths so far. Despite some positive developments against the disease in Senegal and Nigeria, which have been declared Ebola-free, the UN health agency has warned that some countries may be under-reporting their rates of infection, particularly in the three most affected countries – Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone – where the situation has been continuously deteriorating.


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