Members of the Council
Ambassador Marten Grunditz
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is a privilege for me to participate, for the second time, in a meeting of this Council on UNMIL activities in Liberia. Let me begin by expressing the profound gratitude of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the Government and People of Liberia to the Council for its continued support of peace and stability in Liberia. We also want to congratulate you Madam President, on your assumption of the presidency of the Council for this month.
We are meeting at a time when Liberia is facing a serious threat to its national existence. The deadly Ebola virus has caused a disruption of the normal functioning of our State.
The disease, which early this year was identified in the remote villages of our country,, has now reached urban centers, including the capital Monrovia. It is now spreading like wild fire, devouring everything in its path. The already weak health infrastructure of the country has been overwhelmed. Health workers, including doctors and nurses, who are at the frontline of the fight to control the disease have been highly affected, with several losing their lives, including some of the country's prominent doctors and nurses.
The rapid spread of this virus created a health crisis, requiring the President to institute measures aimed at containment. These measures included establishment of the National Task Force on Ebola, headed by the President herself; creation of an Incident Management Team, led by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, and declaration of a State of Emergency for 90 days. Additional measures included one month compulsory leave for non-essential government employees, now extended for second month, to limit human to human contact. Communities with high incidence of infections were contained and, in specific cases, quarantined in order to limit movement. A nation-wide curfew is currently in place.
The Government of Liberia launched an awareness campaign with the full support of UNMIL, the Liberian media, civil society organizations, the business community and other bilateral and international partners. The Government also, through the national Legislature, provided an initial allocation of $5 million dollars to support the national strategy against the spread of the deadly virus. A subsequent appeal was made to the international community to provide financial, logistical and material support for the implementation of the national strategy which prioritized the following actions: Personal protection and safety of healthcare workers – providing better health care services for all ebola virus disease cases (EVDs), and providing general health care for the population, among other measures.
In spite of all these measures, continued denial, traditional practices, religious rituals, fear and community resistance still constitute obstacles to progress. Government is using all available means to overcome these obstacles and minimize actions of mob violence and other infractions of peace and security.
From the few cases in March 2014, the pandemic has mushroomed into a health emergency exceeding the Government's response capacity. As we speak, this deadly disease continues to spread and cause havoc in many communities. Nine of the fifteen counties in Liberia are currently affected. Liberia lacks the infrastructure, logistical capacity,, professional expertise and financial resources to effectively address this disease.
To be candid, the response by the international community to the appeal of our Government and partners, in particular WHO and Medecins Sans Frontiere (MSF) was initially less than robust. However, we are thankful to the Secretary General for his leadership and initiatives in focusing global attention on this virus, including his appointment of a Special Coordinator for Ebola in the person of Dr. David Nabarro. We are very encouraged by current efforts of the UN to mobilize resources and coordinate the scaling up of interventions to bring surge capacity to bear in response to this tragic situation. We are equally appreciative of the action taken by the African Union in dispatching a technical team and making funding available to support national efforts. Even today, the African Union has issued a call to all its Members State to urgently lift all travel bans imposed on countries affected by the ebola outbreak in Africa. We ask Council members to all use their good offices to support this call.
This health emergency is affecting every sector of our society. Our economy has been very seriously disrupted. Local economic activities such as domestic food production, mining, and transport services have been undermined. Moreover, the slowdown in domestic food production, particularly in affected areas of the country, has negatively impacted food supply, thus triggering increasing demand for imported commodities, at higher prices. The hospitality industry has also been seriously affected by the epidemic. Today, only two international airlines, SN Brussels and Air Maroc are flying to and from Liberia. The suspension of flights has accentuated the difficulties we are facing and exacerbated the constraint of humanitarian delivery.
Until today, there have been no reports of infections among UNMIL staff, both national and international. The Government is aware that the stakes are high as troop and police contributing countries habour concerns for the health and safety of their citizens. We extend our appreciation to these countries and appeal for their solidarity by allowing their forces to continue their assignment in Liberia. The UN plan for scaling up the international response needs to benefit from the use of military assets as well. We thank those countries which have provided these assets and encourage others to do the same.
The Government of Liberia fully supports the Secretary-General's request for a technical roll-over of UNMIL's mandate for the next three months. Our attention and focus need to be directed towards containing and eliminating the ebola virus from Liberia and other countries. We encourage continued flexibility on the part of the Council in these very difficult circumstances for Liberia. We also hope that the deliberations will take into account the imperatives of protecting the investment and gains made in Liberia over the years for peace and stability.
I thank you.