Asks Regional Community to Mobilize Health-care Professionals, Preparedness Plans for Fight against Ebola in Affected Countries
Following is UN Secretary‑General Ban Ki‑moon’s message to the Extraordinary Summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), delivered by Mohamed ibn Chambas, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa (UNOWA), in Accra on 6 November:
I thank His Excellency President John Dramani Mahama of Ghana and the Government and people of Ghana for hosting this summit on the crisis in Burkina Faso and on the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa. I thank the Economic Community of West African States for coming together at this time of challenge.
I am very concerned about the situation in Burkina Faso. Events have evolved rapidly since 30 October, the day the National Assembly was scheduled to vote to amend Article 37 to extend presidential term limits. With the resignation of former President Compaoré, Burkina Faso is at a turning point. But we are also at a very fragile juncture.
Since the beginning of the crisis, the international community has spoken with one voice to the people of Burkina Faso. I commend the joint mediation undertaken by the United Nations, the African Union and ECOWAS, as well as the support provided by the Presidents of Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal and the initiatives of international partners to promote a smooth and peaceful transition.
The United Nations will continue to encourage all parties to reach an agreement as soon as possible for a peaceful and civilian-led transition leading to democratic elections in a timely fashion.
The United Nations will also continue to emphasize the need to protect the rights of all the Burkinabè people, including the opposition and civil society groups that have accompanied the popular insurrection, the members of the former Government, as well as the former President, in order to ensure a consensual and inclusive transition that establishes solid bases for long-term democracy and stability.
Regional and global cooperation and solidarity will be crucial. The same is true for our efforts to address the Ebola crisis. Ebola is a major regional and global emergency that demands a massive and immediate global response. The epidemic has wide and profound economic, humanitarian, political and security dimensions. We must act decisively to relieve the burden on the people and Governments of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone and stop the spread of Ebola to other countries.
The United Nations has established UNMEER — the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response — to complement, scale up and coordinate the efforts of national Governments, United Nations entities and international and local partner organizations. I am grateful to the Government of Ghana for hosting UNMEER’s headquarters, and I thank the Governments of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone for their leadership and close cooperation. Together, we have a clear plan and are executing it.
I am encouraged by the recent pledges of medical personnel by Burundi, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria, and by Senegal’s offer to serve as a logistics hub for the response. I welcome the offer of the African Union to deploy 200 doctors and of the East African Community to mobilize up to 2,000 volunteers. I ask for the support of ECOWAS in mobilizing health-care professionals from within the region and the diaspora to fill critical gaps in staffing Ebola treatment facilities.
Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Senegal have successfully dealt with outbreaks, and there are encouraging signs from some areas of the affected countries. But the road ahead will be long and hard. As the recent case in Mali indicates, we must remain vigilant. ECOWAS members need to ensure that preparedness plans are in place and funds are available to implement them. We must convey a sense of urgency without inciting panic. Some countries have imposed travel bans, instituted quarantine measures or closed their borders. This will only isolate the affected countries and discourage responders from deploying to the region. The only way to stop Ebola is to stop it at its source.
No country or organization can defeat Ebola alone. I appeal to ECOWAS members, as well as countries throughout Africa and the world, to consider how best they can contribute. I thank all of you for your leadership and partnership with the United Nations. Please accept my best wishes for a successful Summit.