World must do ‘whatever it takes’ to ensure recovery of Ebola-affected countries

12-05-2014Rice_EbolaThe Economic and Social Council held a special meeting on “Ebola: A threat to Sustainable Development” on 5 December 2014 focusing on linking emergency Ebola response to longer-term efforts to strengthen health systems

The meeting brought together high-level representatives of Member States, the United Nations system, the international organizations, civil society, health sector experts, academia and the private sector. The ministers and high level representatives for the affected countries as well as the high-level United Nations Officials addressed the Council.

The keynote addresses were followed by a panel discussion moderated by Dr. Paul Farmer, Co-Founder of Partners in Health and Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Community Based Medicine, and Lessons from Haiti. Panelists included High-level Representatives from the African Union Commission, the United Nations system, the World Bank, Open Society Foundation, Center for Global Development and Ebola Private Sector Mobilization Group.

A number of strong messages came out of this discussion, which include: (i) the Ebola outbreak has halted these countries economic progress and has had a negative impact on sectors beyond health, including agriculture, education, and commerce; (ii) urgent delivery of funding pledges and increased technical assistance for national coordination of resources to be provided, (iii) debt relief and concessional loans to be provided to the affected countries; (iv) development actors to align their assistance with national response plans and financial needs as defined by Governments, including salary support for civil servants and frontline health care workers; (v) the international community to support the African Union’s decision to establish a Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in Africa that would enable the regional to prevent and effectively deal with Ebola and future pandemics; (vi) the private sector to play an important role in the Ebola response, including in bringing liquidity to the markets and in helping to strengthen health systems.

One of the strongest messages was to invest more resources in strengthening national institutions by investing directly through countries’ national institutions, prioritizing the public sector, including health, education, sanitation and the economy, so as to safeguard affected countries against future crises. This will allow the affected countries to build health systems capable of responding to emergencies and of withstanding shocks such as Ebola. All development actors were called to consider flexible and innovative funding modalities for immediate response to future health and other development-related crises, as well as financing for vaccines and treatments. Mechanisms are needed to direct resources to meet re-defined government strategies.

As the outcome of the meeting, the President of ECOSOC, Ambassador Martin Sajdik of Austria has released a “Presidential Statement” which captures the main recommendations of the meeting and calls for a comprehensive study on the economic and social impact of the Ebola outbreak by the UN system, under the leadership of the Secretary-General, building on the work being done by the Economic Commission for Africa, the World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme. The Economic and Social Council intends to convene a follow-up meeting in mid-2015.

 

For more information:

ECOSOC Special Meeting on Ebola

UN System’s Global Ebola Response