New York

13 January 2016

Secretary-General's Remarks at General Assembly Briefing on Ebola [As Delivered]

Almost 16 months have passed since the General Assembly approved resolution 69/1, expressing grave concern at the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Today, we face a vastly different situation. 

For the first time since the outbreak started, the region is on the cusp of being declared free of Ebola transmission.

Sierra Leone declared the end of Ebola transmission on 7 November 2015. 

Guinea marked this milestone on 29 December 2015. 

These countries are now observing a 90-day period of heightened vigilance.  National and international responders will need to remain fully engaged.

Liberia is one day away from declaring the end of the recent flare-up in the country.

That means that tomorrow – January 14th -- all known chains of transmission will have been stopped in West Africa.

These achievements could not have happened without the decisive leadership of the Presidents and other national authorities of the three affected countries, and the engagement of all communities. 

Of course, significant challenges remain.

We can anticipate future flare-ups of Ebola in the coming year.  

Liberia’s experience in combating two flare-ups has shown the resilience and capacity of the affected countries to reactivate emergency response mechanisms and contain the virus.

But we also expect the potential and frequency of those flare-ups to decrease over time. 

Governments will need resources to help communities prevent infection, detect potential cases and respond rapidly and effectively.

I am grateful for the generous pledges made at the International Ebola Recovery Conference in July 2015. 

We must make good on our promise.

More than 10,000 people in the West African region survived Ebola infection. 

They will need comprehensive support for their health and well-being.   

We must ensure care for survivors, for widows, orphans and other vulnerable populations.

And as we recognize the courageous health workers, burial teams, and others, let us do all we can to counter the distress, mistrust and stigma caused by Ebola.

We have much to learn from this experience.

I look forward to the report and recommendations of the High-level Panel on the Global Response to Health Crises. 

I also welcome General Assembly resolution 70/183, acknowledging the key role of the World Health Organization in dealing with outbreaks and emergencies with health consequences, and requesting it to provide reports on the state of health security in 2016 and 2017. 

Allow me to make a final personal point.

Sometimes when a challenge moves out of a crisis phase, the world tends to move on.  Sometimes it even forgets.

But I know those of you in this room remember the enormity of the challenge we faced 16 short months ago.

An active outbreak.  A rising death toll.  An exponential infection curve.  And perhaps, above all, uncertainty and mounting fear. 

What would tomorrow bring?

Our Organization faced a fundamental test of our collective strength and will – and we mobilized.

Governments and communities in the region stepped up in extraordinary ways.

Dozens of countries provided life-saving contributions.

We created the first-ever United Nations emergency health mission and coordinated a unified response, with key contributions from UN Country Teams.

I will never forget my visit to region in December 2014. 

I was deeply moved by my encounters with so many heroes on the front lines providing care and battling stigma.

Today, I know you join me in applauding all our partners for their dedication and hard work.

The end of Ebola transmission in West Africa is testament to what we can achieve when multilateralism works as it should, bringing the international community to work alongside national governments in caring for their people. 

Let us pledge to maintain our vigilance, our commitment and our solidarity for the people of West Africa and our world.

Thank you.