In Presidential Statement, Security Council Hails Successes of Scaled-up Ebola Response, Calls for Stronger Coordination to Identify Gaps, Trace Contacts

SC/11663
21 November 2014
7318th Meeting (PM)

In Presidential Statement, Security Council Hails Successes of Scaled-up Ebola Response, Calls for Stronger Coordination to Identify Gaps, Trace Contacts

While reiterating grave concern about the unprecedented extent of the Ebola outbreak in Africa, the Security Council today noted the international community’s “considerable” efforts to scale up its coordinated response, which had led to important progress on the ground.

Through a statement presented by Julie Bishop, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Australia, which holds the November presidency, the Council praised the crucial contributions of regional States that had led the ground response to Ebola and continued to address the wider political, security, socioeconomic and humanitarian impacts of the outbreak.

“Since we last met much has happened.  The response capacities available to national and local authorities have expanded substantially,” David Nabarro, Special Envoy of the Secretary‑General on Ebola, said in a meeting that also heard videoconference briefings by Anthony Banbury, the Secretary‑General’s Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER); and Thomas Mauget, the Head of the French Red Cross in Guinea, from Accra and Conakry respectively.

“But if we take our eye off the ball, case numbers will climb again — and we all count the cost,” Mr. Nabarro added.

Through the statement, the Council underscored the continued need for robust contact tracing — finding everyone who comes into direct contact with someone infected by Ebola — as well as social mobilization and community level engagement, especially outside of major urban areas in the most affected countries.  It stressed the need for UNMEER to strengthen its coordination with Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, as well as with partners, such as the Mano River Union, the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), expressing concern about the recent reported Ebola infections in Mali.

Further, it was critical, the Council stated, to put in place medical evacuation capacities, as well as treatment and transport provisions to facilitate the immediate and unhindered deployment of health and humanitarian workers.

The 15-member body urged all States, bilateral and multilateral partners to accelerate the provision of resources and financial assistance, as well as mobile laboratories, field hospitals, trained clinical personnel and services in Ebola treatment units and isolation units, therapies, vaccines and diagnostics to treat patients; and personal protective equipment for first-line responders.

The “dynamic” needs on the ground required a “flexible” international response, the Council stated, strongly urging States, airlines and shipping companies to maintain trade and transport links with the most affected countries.

In his briefing, Mr. Nabarro noted that while the total number of cases continued to rise, the overall rate of increase had begun to slow.  At the same time, transmission was still “intense and rapid” in many locations, and the outbreak had spread geographically.  There were hotspots in northern Guinea and western Sierra Leone, with a new chain of transmission in Mali.  “This outbreak will not be over until the last case is identified, isolated and under treatment,” he said.

He gave primary credit for progress to the communities that had mobilized to change practices to safely bury the dead, care for the sick, limit physical contact and improve hygiene.  Medical personnel skilled in dealing with the illness were also critical, as was addressing the socioeconomic factors. 

The initial short-term target for the Secretary‑General’s Multi-Partner Trust Fund, $100 million, had been met and disbursed to the World Food Programme (WFP) for critical programmes, he said, but there was a $700 million shortfall to meet all estimated needs through March 2015, along with funding of similar magnitude for recovery efforts.  Skilled health professionals were also urgently needed.  “The international community must maintain its urgent response,” he said.

Mr. Banbury concurred that while the worst-case scenarios had not come true, the crisis was still serious.  Fifty-five per cent of cases were being isolated.  However, the countries of West Africa still did not have the capability to respond quickly to outbreaks in new areas.  It was a very complex emergency.  Beyond the death and infection tolls, which were probably being under-reported, the disease had had a terrible effect on livelihoods; the Liberian economy was now expected to shrink by 4 per cent.  More than two million people were being kept out of school and half of the workforce in affected countries had lost their jobs.  Government revenues had decreased while needs had soared. 

He said infrastructure and tools to combat the crisis did not exist, as the spread of the disease had been unprecedented.  UNMEER’s first 30 days had focused on getting the necessary personnel and resources on the ground simultaneously.  The Mission was already operational in the three most-affected countries, and deploying more staff into remote areas where the disease could spread.  Today, in consultation with the national authorities, it had been asked to take rapid and decisive action to stem the outbreak in Mali.  Overall, UNMEER had a 30-60-90-day plan to achieve its objectives, including logistics, information management and human resource mobilization at all levels. 

While current strategies were working with a crisis management structure in each country, he said, eradicating the epidemic required an enormous increase in resources.  The amount of contact tracers and mobility in hard-to-reach or more widespread places would be significant.  “There is a long battle ahead of us,” he said.  He paid tribute to Médicins Sans Frontièrs and to communities beset by the epidemic for their efforts, but warned that “as long as Ebola remains in one country, it threatened all countries.”

Mr. Mauget said that the first Red Cross treatment centre had already opened in Guinea, providing hope for the ill, but the country still had a critical need for supplies, medical staff and capabilities, with a resurgence of Ebola infecting new areas.  He paid tribute to Guinean Red Cross members who had been exposing themselves morally and physically, treating people and accompanying bodies to ensure safe burial.  Outreach was also critical to win the hearts and minds of the local population, much of which remained suspicious of counter-Ebola teams.  Skills in areas such as water, sanitation engineering and transport of medical resources were also in short supply.  He welcomed international support to those battling Ebola on the front lines, but agreed with other briefers that such support must be intensified.

Representatives of affected countries — Guinea, Liberia, Mali and Sierra Leone — also addressed the Council, expressing gratitude to those involved in executing a coordinated global response to Ebola.  While they highlighted ways international efforts were “catching up” to the fast pace of the disease, they urged a vigilant and sustained focus on aggressive interventions to stop its spread.

Also speaking today were the representatives of United States, China, Chad, France, Nigeria, Lithuania, Luxembourg, United Kingdom, Jordan, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Republic of Korea, Chile and Argentina.

The meeting began at 3:10 p.m. and ended at 6:40 p.m.

Statements

Council President JULIE BISHOP, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Australia, said rising food prices, closed schools and lost livelihoods were just some of the consequences of the Ebola outbreak.  The Council had rightly determined that the crisis threatened international peace and security.  Ebola had infected more than 15,000 people and, as women had been exposed at higher rates than men, their needs must be prioritized in the response.  “Complacency is our worst enemy,” she said, noting that while progress had been seen towards the 70 per cent targets for isolation, treatment and safe burial by 1 December, gains could easily be reversed.  The response must adapt to the evolving nature of the outbreak, while the secondary impacts of the crisis — including the breakdown of national health-care systems — must be addressed.  Australia would fund and staff 100 beds for treatment in Sierra Leone, and provide technical personnel for non-front-line roles, bringing its total commitment to fighting Ebola to $42 million.

SAMANTHA POWER (United States) cited efforts to ensure that 70 per cent of burials were conducted in a safe manner within 60 days, and said that in Sierra Leone’s capital, safe burials had jumped from 30 per cent to 98 per cent in less than a week.  On 4 November, 33 of 53 of the country’s affected districts could transport samples to a lab for testing; by 17 November, all 53 districts had that ability.  Yet, it would be “reckless” to think the disease had been contained. Last week, 533 new cases were confirmed in Sierra Leone, the highest weekly tally since the outbreak began, and the disease had emerged in Mali.  The response must be “fluid, nimble and regional”.  UNMEER must better target the work of United Nations agencies and others to maximize the effectiveness of the response.  Donors must tailor interventions to “the needs of the moment”, while more countries must send health-care workers to help national responders.  Governments should stop hampering volunteers from becoming involved.  Health-care workers from affected countries must be better protected and more must be invested in helping neighbouring countries prevent outbreaks.  “Ebola punishes us for every mistake,” she said.

LIU JIEYI (China) welcomed the results of the international Ebola strategy but noted that the disease had not yet been contained.  That meant the international community should work harder to fight the outbreak, consolidating achievements, further strengthening monitoring and prevention, and gathering necessary data to advance needed science.  He called on all partners to honour their commitments of assistance to fight the outbreak and make plans to help the affected countries strengthen their health systems.  His country had provided four batches of emergency assistance representing record totals of outlay, with a treatment centre in Liberia staffed with health-care workers.  More staff was teaching and providing treatment in varied locations, and a range of resources was being provided.  Chinese companies in the region had also contributed in cash and kind.

GOMBO TCHOULI (Chad), noting encouraging signs in the fight against Ebola as well as the continuing international threat of the epidemic, saluted the resilience of affected countries as well as the efforts of those involved, particularly those who gave their lives.  He called on the media to pay a positive role in raising awareness but not spreading panic.  Stigmatization must be avoided and the countries affected should not be isolated.  He also called on the international community to further strengthen their response to the disease.

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) said that progress had been significant but not sufficient to contain the disease, and conveyed condolences to those who had lost their lives.  Top officials of his country were travelling to the affected country to pledge their commitment and visit treatment centres.  France was building a centre in Conakry, Guinea to treat all those affected, and had placed evacuation capacity at the disposal of all treatment workers.  More treatment units were being prepared, training was stepped up and coordination with the United Nations system was being boosted.  Work was being done in Mali as well.  Efforts were being made to isolate the virus but not the countries.  He pledged that his country would continue to work side by side with the countries of the region through the post-Ebola period.

USMAN SARKI (Nigeria) said it was important to heed the messages of today’s briefers and continue to intensify the effort to eradicate the Ebola virus.  It was important to acknowledge the efforts of subregional and regional organizations, as well as non-governmental organizations working on the front lines.  Nigeria had committed both financial resources and personnel to the effort, and had been able to eradicate the outbreak in its territory, demonstrating that the fight against Ebola could indeed be won.  It would nevertheless remain vigilant.  Noting the vulnerabilities of the post-conflict countries affected, he called for sustained and targeted assistance rather than isolation, supporting the Secretary‑General’s recommendations in that light.  His country would not relent in its efforts until the disease was eradicated in his subregion.

NIDA JAKUBONĖ (Lithuania), paying tribute to those on the front lines fighting Ebola and extending sympathy to victims and their families, said that efficient operational coordination among key actors at the country level should be further strengthened.  Bolstering response, prevention and awareness-raising capabilities was also a priority.  Her country had contributed to recovery efforts through WFP and was closely coordinating responses with its European Union partners.  Advanced consideration for the post-Ebola phase was needed, focusing on comprehensive strategies to build the health-care systems of the affected countries and strengthen societal resilience.  She pledged her country’s readiness to engage with its partners on such efforts.

SYLVIE LUCAS (Luxembourg) expressed hope that the Council and General Assembly would continue to give the necessary support to fighting Ebola in West Africa, stressing that, while the latest World Health Organization (WHO) report had shown a decrease in cases in Liberia, international efforts must be intensified.  In December, two Luxembourg air ambulances would be available to evacuate Ebola patients.  Her country had arranged such transport, allowing humanitarian aid to reach Conakry, Freetown and Monrovia.  Luxembourg’s total contribution to the Ebola fight was more than $2 billion.  Noting the importance of preventing, isolating and treating all Ebola cases as soon as possible, she said Luxembourg supported a regional Red Cross programme that would help Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Mali, Niger and Senegal.  The international community must prepare for a post-Ebola scenario.  Luxembourg was working with the Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone configurations of the Peacebuilding Commission.

PETER WILSON (United Kingdom) said more must be done to extinguish the Ebola crisis and lay the foundations for tomorrow, noting that his Government had committed $350 million to combat the disease, as well as 820 military personnel to support national efforts in Sierra Leone.  It also had helped to deliver safe burial work, training more than 800 workers per week.  It was working to deliver 200 community health-care centres across Sierra Leone, rolling out a command and control model across districts.  He asked partners to explore whether they could provide health workers for staffing centres being built in Sierra Leone, as well as lab technicians and biomedical scientists to help United Kingdom staff run the labs.  He urged a focus on coordinating the United Nations system; harnessing the global supply chain; rapidly mobilizing and coordinating resources; communicating with all stakeholders; and focusing on all the most-affected countries, through preparedness and contingency planning.  The number of health workers in the affected countries must be scaled up, especially in local district.

DINA KAWAR (Jordan) said Ebola threatened international peace and security, noting that it would inflict $32.6 billion in damages by 2015 in the three most affected countries, as well as carry long-term humanitarian and social impacts.  Despite that the infection rate had stabilized, efforts must continue to ensure Ebola did not spread to neighbouring States.  She called on all national, regional and international actors, including UNMEER, to identify gaps in the response, and to efficiently provide basic services.  Efforts by the Mano River Union, African Union, ECOWAS and other partners must be streamlined.  Reaffirming the importance of preventive measures, she urged States to develop work plans and mechanisms to strengthen the response at all levels.  National leadership in affected countries was essential.  Among other things, the international community must continue providing field hospitals, clinical services, mobile labs and diagnostic methods.

PETR V. ILIICHEV (Russian Federation), while agreeing that destabilization could result from the Ebola epidemic in the countries affected, maintained that the lead role in the effort should be taken by the United Nations specialized agencies and the Assembly.  Before the disease had been declared a threat to international peace and security, his country had begun assisting the countries most affected by the scourge.  He described some of Russian Federation’s contributions, including hospital building, scientific research on treatments and sanitation standards.  His country would continue to work with international partners to fight the epidemic and prevent deterioration of conditions in affected countries.

OLIVIER NDUHUNGIREHE (Rwanda) welcomed the decrease in the rate of transmission of Ebola, but agreed with the briefers on the continued peril of the situation and thanked all countries that had contributed to fighting the disease.  He fully supported the African Union mission for that purpose, welcoming in particular its communications strategy.  He hoped that the international community would keep its efforts strong to contain the disease and to help the countries recover from the crisis, in cooperation with the Peacebuilding Commission and all partners.

PAIK JI-AH (Republic of Korea), paying tribute to those who were on the front lines fighting Ebola, said it was important that all parties align their efforts with UNMEER and called for immediate measures to ensure food security in the affected countries as well as to ensure the safety of health workers.  Community-level approaches, mitigating fear and building trust, were essential.  While there seemed to be a light at the end of the tunnel in Liberia, all must remain vigilant, she stated, noting her country’s contributions in the effort and pledging its commitment until the disease was eradicated.

IGNACIO LLANOS (Chile), reiterating solidarity with the affected countries and victims of Ebola, said that the situation still presented a threat to international peace and security.  He thanked those who were fighting the epidemic, including the Cuban health workers deployed in the region.  Successful experiences of countries in the region could be helpful to keep new outbreaks in such countries as Mali from spreading.  His country was working with regional organizations and United Nations agencies to fight the epidemic.  Long-term assistance for recovery of the affected countries must be taken into account in the renewal of mandates of peacekeeping operations in the region.  It was important, finally, that individuals and countries suffering from the disease were not stigmatized.

MARÍA CRISTINA PERCEVAL (Argentina) said it was indispensable to cooperate in different ways to prevent the transmission of Ebola throughout the region — and the world, cautioning against any efforts to stop trade, close borders or cancel transport services.  There was no alternative to cooperation.  Indeed, there were uncertainties, including in macroeconomic and financial projections.  The World Bank said damages could reach $4 billion by year-end, while others had estimated $36 billion.  The response must be coordinated and cooperative.  Ebola had impacted agricultural production, which in turn, had exacerbated food insecurity.  Lauding efforts by the affected countries to emerge from poverty and exclusion, as well as those working to halt the Ebola scourge, she urged bearing in mind those who were infected, who could easily also fall victim to technocracy.  Noting the important role of the media in that regard, she said: “This is how we overcome prejudice, by demonstrating we are not indifferent”, including to those working in United Nations field missions.

MAMADI TOURÉ (Guinea), expressing deep condolences to the family of Marcel Rudasingwa, the head of crisis response on Ebola for Guinea who died this week, thanked all those who were assisting his country and said that as of 19 November, the total declared cases there numbered 2,055, of which 1,224 had died.  Ebola had been fought successfully in many areas, for example 23 of 33 prefectures in the administrative region of Conakry had not reported new cases for 21 days.  Even so, there was continued increase of cases in coastal and forest areas of the country, with three prefectures in emergency phases.  In those prefectures, the struggle had intensified in terms of awareness-raising, putting in place early-warning systems, safe burials, tracing of contacts and rapid reaction to cases of infection.  Describing the framework strategy to fight the disease, he said that the accelerated implementation of the plan depended on rapid mobilization of resources and engagement of all Guineans.  Warning that all the progress of recent years in his country was threatened by the outbreak, he called for partners to support socioeconomic recovery in the region simultaneously with the fight to contain the epidemic.

MARJON V. KAMARA (Liberia), noting that while infections and death due to Ebola had declined considerably in her country, said the disease was not yet under control.  The Government would increase support for community care centres, as well as people in quarantine and those facing stigmatization after discharge.  The next step would be to upgrade regular health facilities in order to minimize the chances of recurrence, followed by efforts to obtain support from partners for economic recovery.  Noting that prospects were “dim” that the outbreak would reach the projected one million mark by January 2015, she said the worst-case scenario might have been averted.  Opportunities for addressing the social and economic effects of Ebola should be explored, including budget and livelihood support.  She requested ECOWAS to provide observers for senatorial elections, which the Legislature had approved for 16 December.

VANDI CHIDI MINAH (Sierra Leone) said investment in the fight against Ebola in West Africa was one of collective security, noting that Sierra Leone had seen a spike in reported cases.  The situation was critical and depressing.  He expressed hope UNMEER would evolve into a competent institution.  Ebola had taken a toll on Sierra Leone’s gross domestic product, employment, food transport and agricultural cycles, profoundly affecting society’s most productive members, women disproportionately so.  Personal protective equipment, technical and logistics experts, sustainable livelihood support and incentive payments for burial teams were required in greater quantities.  He urged UNMEER to quickly deploy its personnel with a nimble bureaucratic footprint.  Expressing thanks to Cuba for its “fearless medical diplomacy”, he said national health systems were on the verge of ruin and requested assistance for rebuilding them.  He also asked the United Nations to be fully engaged with African institutions to beat Ebola.

DIANGUINA DIT YAYA DOUCOURÉ (Mali), thanking all those who had responded to the Ebola crisis, said that his country had unfortunately recorded its first case on 22 October, a small girl who had travelled from out of the country and then died.  Authorities swiftly traced everyone who had come in direct contact with her, but new cases arose.  As of 20 November, there were 310 people being monitoring and two suspected cases had been identified.  There had been a total of five deaths.  Describing extensive efforts on the part of the Government and people of Mali to keep the disease from spreading despite limited resources, he appealed to the international community for more substantial and coordinated support to the region to fight the disease.  He pledged his Government’s continued coordination with all partners, including regional and subregional organizations, in the effort.

Presidential Statement

The full text of presidential statement S/PRST/2014/24 reads as follows:

“The Security Council reiterates its grave concern about the unprecedented extent of the Ebola outbreak in Africa, which constitutes a threat to international peace and security, and the impact of the Ebola virus on West Africa, in particular Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.  The Security Council expresses its appreciation for the crucial contributions and commitments made by the Member States of the region, to continue to lead the ground-level response against the Ebola outbreak, as well as to address the wider political, security, socioeconomic and humanitarian impact, including on food security, of the Ebola outbreak on communities and the need to plan for the longer term recovery in the region, including with the support of the Peacebuilding Commission.  The Security Council underscores the continued need for robust contact tracing, social mobilization and community-level engagement efforts, especially outside of major urban areas in the most affected countries.

“The Security Council stresses the importance for the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) to continue to strengthen coordination with the Governments of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, and all national, regional and international actors, including bilateral partners and multilateral organizations, including the Mano River Union, African Union, Economic Community of West African States, European Union, World Bank Group and the United Nations system, in order to more readily identify gaps in the response effort and to utilize all Ebola response assistance more fully and efficiently, particularly at the local level.  In this regard, the Security Council requests that the Secretary-General accelerate efforts to scale-up UNMEER’s presence and activities at the district and prefecture level outside of the capital cities.

“The Security Council expresses its concern about the recent reported Ebola infections in Mali.  The Security Council recognizes the important steps taken by the Government of Mali, including by appointing an Ebola Incident Coordinator to lead a whole-of-Government response.  The Security Council affirms the importance of preparedness by all Member States to detect, prevent, respond to, isolate and mitigate suspected cases of Ebola within and across borders and of bolstering the preparedness of all countries in the region.  The Security Council recalls the International Health Regulations (2005), which aim to improve the capacity of all countries to detect, assess, notify and respond to all public health threats.

“The Security Council welcomes the efforts undertaken by UNMEER to provide overall leadership and direction to the operational work of the United Nations system, as mandated by the United Nations General Assembly.  The Security Council underscores the need for relevant United Nations System entities, including the United Nations peacekeeping operations and special political missions in West Africa, in close collaboration with UNMEER and within their existing mandates and capacities, to provide immediate assistance to the governments of the most affected countries.

“The Security Council lauds the critical, heroic and selfless efforts of the first-line responders to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, including national health and humanitarian relief workers, educators and burial team members, as well as international health and humanitarian relief workers contributed by the Member States of diverse regions and non-governmental and inter-governmental organizations.  The Security Council expresses its condolences to the families of the victims of the Ebola outbreak, including national and international first-line responders.  The Security Council urges all Member States, non-governmental, inter-governmental and regional organizations to continue to respond to the outstanding need for medical personnel, as well as related critical gap areas, such as personnel with expertise in sanitation and hygiene.

“The Security Council underscores the critical importance of putting in place essential arrangements, including medical evacuation capacities and treatment and transport provisions, to facilitate the immediate, unhindered and sustainable deployment of health and humanitarian relief workers to the affected countries.  The Security Council welcomes the steps announced by Member States and regional organizations to provide medical evacuation capacities for health and humanitarian relief workers, as well as other treatment options in situ.

“The Security Council notes the considerable efforts of the international community to scale-up its coordinated response to the Ebola outbreak and the important progress on the ground as a result of these contributions.  In this regard, the Security Council commends those Member States, which, in concert with other actors on the ground, have opened Ebola treatment units and provided other crucial support in the affected countries.  The Security Council urges all Member States, bilateral partners and multilateral organizations, to expedite the provision of resources and financial assistance, as well as mobile laboratories; field hospitals to provide non-Ebola-related medical care; dedicated and trained clinical personnel and services in Ebola treatment units and isolation units; therapies, vaccines and diagnostics to treat patients and limit or prevent further Ebola infection or transmission; and personal protective equipment for first-line responders.  The Security Council calls on Member States, especially in the region, to facilitate immediately the delivery of such assistance, to the most affected countries.

“The Security Council emphasizes that the dynamic needs on the ground in the most affected countries require that the international community’s response remains flexible, in order to adapt to changing requirements and rapidly respond to new outbreaks.

“The Security Council strongly urges Member States, as well as airlines and shipping companies, while applying appropriate public health protocols, to maintain trade and transport links with the most affected countries to enable the timely utilization of all efforts aimed at containing the Ebola outbreak within and across borders of the region.  While recognizing the important role that appropriate screening measures can play in stopping the spread of the outbreak, the Security Council expresses its continued concern about the detrimental effect of the isolation of the affected countries as a result of trade and travel restrictions imposed on and to the affected countries, as well as acts of discrimination against the nationals of Guinea, Liberia, Mali and Sierra Leone, including Ebola survivors and their families or those infected with the disease.”

For information media. Not an official record.