Secretary-General's Remarks to Media on Ebola
Washington D.C. , 21 November 2014
Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. Thank you for your time. And I am glad that I have an opportunity to speak about Ebola.
We have just had an in-depth, extensive discussion among the Chief Executives of the United Nations system on Ebola.
We are determined to do everything in our power to help the affected countries to stop the outbreak of Ebola, treat the infected people and ensure that all essential services are provided, and preserve stability of the country and prevent outbreaks in the country and prevent further spread to other countries.
Results to date are uneven. The rate of transmission continues to increase in many places.
We need more international responders -- trained medical teams and volunteer health workers – especially in remote districts. And we need to avoid travel bans, discrimination against health workers and other steps that would isolate countries when they need help most.
There has been some welcome progress. Where the Ebola response strategy is implemented, the rate of new cases appears to be slowing. We are seeing the curve bending in enough places to give us hope.
There are three main reasons.
First, the efforts of the affected governments and local communities are working in close coordination with the United Nations system. People are taking action to protect themselves and their family members. The proportion of safe burials has rapidly improved, especially in Liberia.
Second, there is greater capacity for treating people. There is more case identification and contact tracing. I thank the many countries of the international community that are making life-saving contributions.
Third, the entire UN system is fully mobilized.
The UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response, UNMEER, continues to support the affected countries in managing this crisis.
The World Health Organization, WHO, is providing strategic guidance; the World Bank is providing crucial resources; and all UN agencies, funds and programmes in the affected region, as well as the UN peacekeeping operation in Liberia, continue to provide assistance.
The new chain of transmission in Mali is a cause of deep concern. We are translating the lessons we have already learned from the Ebola outbreak into early action to mitigate against a further spread in Mali.
The Malian authorities have demonstrated great leadership and resilience since the onset of the outbreak. They have requested UNMEER’s assistance.
I have just spoken to President [Ibrahim Boubacar] Keita of Mali, about half an hour ago, and informed him that, as a way to show our solidarity and unity and immediate support, Dr. Margaret Chan, Director General of the World Health Organization, and Dr. Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS Executive Director, are travelling to Mali immediately this afternoon. They will have in-depth discussions on how the United Nations system can eradicate this and prevent further outbreaks in Mali.
At the same time, I have instructed the head of UNMEER, Tony Banbury, to establish on an urgent basis a United Nations support mission in Mali and pending the establishment of this UNMEER mission in Mali, I have designated, upon agreement of President Keita, the WHO country director in Mali, Dr. Ibrahima Fall, as representative of UNMEER.
Decisive national action combined with international support today will help to prevent a spread of the outbreak in Mali to crisis proportions tomorrow.
Even as we focus on the immediate threats, it is not too soon to start working on recovery.
The consequences of Ebola will long outlast the outbreak. Ebola has had a significant impact on health care, education and food security. Trade has suffered. Businesses have closed. The affected countries will need assistance long after the crisis has passed.
If we continue to accelerate our response, we can contain and end the outbreak by the middle of next year. I appeal to the international community to stay engaged. We hope the continued support, funding, logistics and personnel support, particularly health workers, will continue to be provided.
The United Nations system will continue to scale up our response until the very last case of Ebola is identified and treated.
Q: Hi, I’m Jason Beaubien from National Public Radio. Do you feel like this outbreak has taken a turn around the corner and you’re actually on top of it? The President of Liberia has said that they now have the upper hand with Ebola. Is it your sense that the UN system and the authorities have the upper hand now on this outbreak?
SG: I will have a preliminary answer but I would like to have Dr. Margaret Chan to have a more detailed and professional answer. As I said earlier in my remarks, where our massive treatment and support has been working, we see definitely the bending of this current curve. That is quite encouraging one. But as I said again, there are some other places, particularly in remote areas, [where] still we see the cases are increasing. But overall, we see that, we are now able to see that our efforts are making differences. That’s what I can tell you. That’s why I am asking the international community to continue their support. Our experts say that we need to have at least five-fold strength and support, because, still, the international response is outpaced by this Ebola spread. Now maybe I will ask you. (turns to Dr. Chan)
Dr. Margaret Chan: I think you answer an extremely important question. We must not forget -- Ebola virus is a formidable enemy. Yes, we are seeing some early signals of hope. Cases are stabilizing. But as Mr. Secretary-General was saying, we are also seeing some new areas where they are reporting new cases. So the answer is: We must maintain our vigilance. Complacency would be our enemy. And in order to get it to zero, we have been successful in bending the curve a bit, but we need to continue to do more to get to zero.
Q: Thank you. My question is for Director General Chan. Could you say more about Mali? And is… the Americans have expressed concern that the country is completely, about whether the country is completely geared up for isolation and contact tracing if the Mali situation gets worse. What’s the latest on the cluster of cases in Mali and are they prepared? Thank you.
Dr. Chan: Mali is now of course attracting a lot of attention, quite rightly. We’ve been monitoring the situation in Mali for weeks. And because the first case coming across the border was a two and a half year old girl and that elicited about 120 contacts that we have been following. Now, the first imported case and the 120 contacts have already passed 21 days. So that means Mali has been successful in managing that outbreak. Now the concern, quite rightly, is because there is a second case, a Grand Imam coming from Guinea into Bamako for treatment; and now, in that situation, it has elicited close to 500 contacts that we are monitoring. I am happy to report that, with the support of all the UN partner agencies, and of course the Government is taking the lead, and partners like CDC, MSF, France – we are scaling up our action. We have to really move with speed and scale and have a no-regret policy. What does that mean? We must smother this little fire, little smoke, before it gets out of control. And that is exactly why Mr. Secretary-General was discussing with the President, and we are going there to reinforce our support and solidarity with Mali. I am confident that if we work together as one, we would be able to bring this outbreak under control.
Off-the-Cuff on 21 November 2014