20 January 2015

Secretary-General, at General Assembly Ebola Meeting, Urges National Stakeholders, Community Leaders, Response Partners, Member States to Stay Engaged

Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks to the informal General Assembly meeting on Ebola, in New York today:

As you know, last month, I travelled to Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Mali to show my solidarity — and that of the United Nations — with the Governments, communities and people affected by the Ebola outbreak.  I also visited UNMEER [United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response] headquarters in Ghana.

I held extensive talks with the Presidents of these countries.  I met with courageous responders on the front lines.  I was inspired by the hundreds of people working tirelessly to coordinate this complex response operation.

I was deeply moved and humbled to meet the resilient people and communities affected by the outbreak, including survivors who are now helping others who have become infected.  They are all Ebola “heroes”.

I left the region convinced that we can defeat this outbreak:  our challenge is to prevail quickly and minimize suffering.  This demands collective determination and clarity of focus by all.

We have worked intensively to support the people and nations confronting the Ebola outbreak.  Together, we mobilized to assist the affected countries as they led the response.  Many nations contributed funds, supplies and expertise.  You boldly welcomed the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response, the first-ever UN health emergency mission.

Today, four months later, we can report progress.  Strong national leadership combined with local community engagement and international support is slowing the incidence of new cases in many places.

Liberia, once the worst-affected country, has seen the most dramatic improvements.  In Sierra Leone, Operation Western Area Surge has helped reduce incidence.  In Guinea, numbers of people with Ebola are comparatively low, but are geographically dispersed.  In Mali, an early and rapid response has strengthened national contact tracing and containment capacities.  Mali has now been declared Ebola-free.  This work must be maintained and we must remain vigilant.

Through all our efforts, we have learned that our response must be regional in nature to avoid a risk of re-transmission.  The outbreak has taught us that there is no room for complacency.  We have also learned that our response must evolve to match the increasingly dispersed pattern of the outbreak.

Throughout the three affected countries, the response is becoming ever more agile, mobile and flexible.  People with Ebola are being detected and brought under treatment.  Their contacts are being traced and kept under surveillance.  Education and health services are being restarted with a focus on supporting infection prevention and control.

Massive support from the international community has been critical.  Yet, resources continue to be required to adjust the response, monitor chains of transmission and end the outbreak.  My Trust Fund has been depleted to fund priority gaps.  It needs your continued support.

I call upon all Member States to sustain the tremendous momentum we have achieved and continue prioritizing the response.  At the same time, the UN system, through UNMEER, will intensify its efforts under the leadership of my new Special Representative, Ismail Ahmed.

The affected countries are starting to assess recovery needs and to prepare for post-Ebola life.

I have instructed the UN system to begin, in parallel with the response, work on the restoration of essential services and planning for early recovery.  We are focusing on access to health care for common illnesses, food security, reopening schools and ensuring care for orphaned children.

The revival of societies also needs attention.  The virus has eaten away at the fabric of society — at how people live, how they love, how they die and care for loved ones in their final days.  It has led to those affected being unfairly stigmatized.

We must, collectively, take stock of how we can build longer-term resilience to withstand future outbreaks.

We owe this investment to, first, the millions of people across West Africa whose lives have been disrupted and devastated by this outbreak.  Second, to the hundreds of health-care workers who have perished in treating the infected, and thirdly, the thousands who continue to risk their lives in doing so.

That is why I am making a special appeal today to national stakeholders, community leaders, response partners and Member States:  Stay engaged and sustain this effort.

Let us ensure that there are sufficient resources to eliminate the disease and ensure recovery.  Let us continue to stand with the people of the affected countries at this vital time.  We count on your continuing support and leadership.

For information media. Not an official record.