Secretary-General's Remarks to the Security Council on Ebola
New York, 18 September 2014
I would like to thank Ambassador Power and the United States for convening this Security Council session on the Ebola Virus Disease.
Only twice before has the Security Council met to discuss the security implications of a public health issue -- both times on the AIDS epidemic. Like those meetings, today’s session on the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa is timely and clearly warranted.
The Ebola crisis has evolved into a complex emergency, with significant political, social, economic, humanitarian and security dimensions. The suffering and spillover effects in the region and beyond demand the attention of the entire world. Ebola matters to us all.
The outbreak is the largest the world has ever seen. The number of cases is doubling every three weeks. There will soon be more cases in Liberia alone than in the four-decade history of the disease.
In the three most affected countries – Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone – the disease is destroying health systems. More people are now dying in Liberia from treatable ailments and common medical conditions than from Ebola.
The virus is also taking an economic toll. Inflation and food prices are rising. Transport and social services are being disrupted. The situation is especially tragic given the remarkable strides that Liberia and Sierra Leone have made in putting conflict behind them.
National governments are doing everything they can. I applaud the courageous actions of the governments, communities and individuals on the frontlines, including local health workers, Médecins Sans Frontières, the International Federation for the Red Cross and Red Crescent and UN entities.
The gravity and scale of the situation now require a level of international action unprecedented for a health emergency.
The leaders of the affected countries have asked the United Nations to coordinate the global response. We are committed to do what is needed, with the speed and scale required.
Under the leadership of Dr. Margaret Chan, the World Health Organization is working to identify the best epidemiological ways to address the outbreak.
I have activated, for the first time, the system-wide organizational crisis response mechanism. Under the leadership of Anthony Banbury, an Ebola Response Centre is operational.
With the support of the Government of Ghana and UNMIL, the UN peacekeeping mission in Liberia, an air-bridge has been established in Accra to facilitate the influx of key health responders and equipment. The UN Humanitarian Air Service is operating between the countries.
UNMIL is adapting its tasks to the current context, and the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, visited Monrovia last week to assure Liberia’s leaders of the mission’s support.
In addition to the many local and international workers already on the ground, WHO, UNDP, UNICEF, WFP and others are actively delivering emergency assistance. The UN Volunteers programme has identified more than 200 healthcare professionals and other experts willing to be trained and deployed.
Despite these wide-ranging efforts, the spread of the disease is outpacing the response. No single government can manage the crisis on its own. The United Nations cannot do it alone.
This unprecedented situation requires unprecedented steps to save lives and safeguard peace security. Therefore, I have decided to establish a UN emergency health mission, combining the World Health Organization’s strategic perspective with a very strong logistics and operational capability.
This international mission, to be known as the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response, or UNMEER, will have five priorities: stopping the outbreak, treating the infected, ensuring essential services, preserving stability and preventing further outbreaks.
Under the leadership of a Special Representative of the Secretary-General, the Mission will bring together the full range of UN actors and expertise in support of national efforts. It will draw on the capacities of many international partners, and work in close coordination with regional organizations such as the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). And it will strive to ensure that these wide-ranging efforts avoid duplication, fill gaps and are aligned with the overall strategy.
Our goal is to have the Mission’s advance team on the ground before the end of the month.
I have written to both the Security Council and General Assembly with further details. I thank you in advance for your support.
Dr. David Nabarro will continue in his vital role as my Special Envoy for Ebola, providing strategic direction and galvanizing international support.
My colleagues and I will do everything we can to ensure the success of the new mission. But its effectiveness will depend crucially on support from the international community. Our best estimate is that we need a twenty-fold increase in assistance.
Earlier this week, the United Nations outlined a set of critical needs totalling almost $1 billion over the next six months.
One key enabler is medevac capacity. This is essential if we are to give the assurances to the heroic international health and aid workers who place themselves at personal risk while serving others.
I applaud the leadership of United States President Barack Obama, and warmly welcome his announcement that the United States will deploy 3,000 troops to provide expertise in logistics, training and engineering.
I also thank the many Governments that have made contributions – including Canada, China, Cuba, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Ghana, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Norway, Qatar, the Russian Federation, Rwanda, South Africa, Switzerland, Uganda and the United Kingdom. I hope other countries will follow suit.
Airports in Senegal and Spain are serving as logistical hubs. The AU, ECOWAS, European Union, World Bank, African Development Bank, Gates Foundation and Global Fund are also engaged.
We are looking to all those in a position to help. The business community, for example, is well placed to contribute in the health, transport, communications and information sectors.
I also appeal again to major airlines and shipping companies to resume services to the affected countries. Isolation only hampers international efforts to reach people in need.
I welcome the resolution to be adopted today by the Security Council.
Tomorrow, I will speak with the General Assembly.
One week from today, we will gather at the highest level to mobilize political will to meet this extraordinary challenge.
We cannot afford delays. The penalty for inaction is high. We need to race ahead of the outbreak -- and then turn and face it with all our energy and strength.
I count on the Security Council’s support and that of the General Assembly and all Member States in meeting this test.
Statements on 18 September 2014