‘The World Came Late’

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The delayed response of the world or the global community during the early stages of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in the Mano River Union (MRU) basin led to the exacerbation of the crisis that led to the death of over 10,000 people in the region, ravishing the economies, social and political fabrics of the affected countries.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, on a frank note, stated that the EVD outbreak overwhelmed Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone, impacted them hugely because the world did not respond at the appropriate time or refused to act fast.
President Sirleaf was addressing members of a high-level delegation from the United Nations Secretary General’s newly constituted High Level Panel on Global Response to Health Crisis over the weekend in Monrovia. The UN HLP was established in April 2015
The panel had come on a fact finding and experience sharing mission to the three countries worst affected by the EVD.
These frank comments are coming at a time when the EVD is gradually waning out from the Mano River basin and is however what the HLP meeting is meant for – experience sharing on the role played by and performances of bilateral and multilateral organizations. Some frank revelations, especially the UN agencies – notable amongst these the WHO – characterized the conference.
The world as a unit was not listening or giving heed to the crisis in West Africa until the crisis became a global threat, she said.
“The response that came from the international community was late and fragmented – it lacked coordination as all of the organizations were doing their own thing.
“We had to take charge. We said that as a government we were going to spearhead the exercise, which we did responsibly with admiration. The world’s response was late. They only began to pull in when we made the point that the crisis had global consequences,” President Sirleaf said.
She noted that upgrading of the health system is what the country is in dire need of, saying that community ownership and effective mobilization emerged as the fulcrum of Liberia’s unique experience in dealing squarely with an unknown enemy.
The President noted that although some gains have been in the area reducing infant mortality and other infectious diseases such as TB, the outbreak revealed critical gaps that need to be urgently addressed.
President Sirleaf then called for partnership to build viable response mechanisms at the community level, train health care workers that would be available to professionally manage mainly rural health facilities and provide quality service delivery to the people.
The head of the delegation, former President of Switzerland, H.E. Ms. Micheline Calmy-Rey, said the work of the panel, as mandated by the UN boss, is to help prevent and manage future health crisis.
She said the panel is working along four priorities, which include financing, governance, availability and affordability of medical supplies and equipment
Madame Calmy-Rey said though finance is not everything; it is part of the problem as well as solution to the problem.
The delegation head said in order to have a response system that would function in the three countries, the governments of the three countries and their partners should think about transparency, corruption and the idea of getting some trust from the donor community.
She also spoke about the affordability and accessibility of medicine and vaccines for the population of the country that will enable the people to get the requisite treatment when they get ill.
The former Switzerland President noted that they have come to meet with the leaders of the countries, civil society, UN Agencies, and international NGOs to get first hand information and share experiences from those who were indirectly involved in the Ebola fight.
Chaired by the President of the United Republic of Tanzania, Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete – the Panel is expected to make recommendations with a view to strengthening national and international systems to prevent and manage future health crises, taking into account lessons learnt from the response to the outbreak of the Ebola virus.
Members of the delegation include former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia, Marty Natalegawa; Executive Secretary of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance, Joy Phumaphi; former Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Dr. Rajiv Shah; and UN Resident Coordinator-OIC-UNMIL, Mr. Antonio Vigilante.

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