UN Plans to Intensify Liberia’s Ebola Response

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The World Health Organization (WHO), through the United Nations Systems, along with other partners, has announced the intensification of the Ebola response by injecting new assets into Liberia’s health sector.

This was disclosed to journalists at a major press conference organized by the UN Family, including the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), WHO and the UN Coordinator for Ebola, Friday, August 22, at UNMIL Hqs in Sinkor.

The conference was addressed by Ms. Karin Landgren, Special Representative of the (UN) Security General, Dr. Keiji Fukuda, Assistant Director-General, WHO and Dr. David Nabarro, UN Ebola Coordinator.

The Ebola outbreak in Liberia and other countries in the West Africa region is the largest and most complex of the deadly disease’s history.

“Ebola in Liberia must be addressed to ensure a stable economy, future and society,” says Ms. Landgren.

She also stated that the magnitude of this outbreak requires a higher level of coordination than previous responses and the UN Mission in Liberia will play a strong role in this effort.

As of March 22 to August 18, the Liberian Government, through its Ministry of Health and Social Welfare has reported that at least 212 have been confirmed dead from the virus and at least 972 have been either confirmed, probable or suspected to have contracted the virus.

Speaking during the confab, Dr. Nabarro, who was recently appointed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, said the outbreak in the region was an extraordinary one and it needs “an unprecedented response in all dimensions.” Dr. Nabarro said his office is working in close collaboration with WHO in order to roll out this response.

“The new coordinating platform that engages government, partners and the UN will bring a new level of accountability, and integrate effective action so we can ensure the right resources get to the areas they are needed most,” the UN Envoy for Ebola added.

He said earlier that the purpose for which he had made Liberia his first stop since assuming his new role, was to see the Ebola outbreak through the eyes of the people, health workers, government workers in Liberia and to understand the challenges and see what more the UN System can do in solidarity.

He disclosed that the support is going to come from every part of the UN system, from Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and also WHO Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan.

“Ebola virus disease is affecting your people, your nation, neighboring nations. It’s a challenge for the world, and it requires enormous courage and effort to respond effectively. Now what we’re are talking about and what partners have been talking about for weeks is way to increase the power of the response so that not only is virus brought under control, and transmission stopped, but people benefit from health services recovering, economy back on track, education and others functioning.”

For his part, the WHO Asst. Dir-Gen., Dr. Fukuda said, “We have seen some of the available current care centers in Monrovia that have been set up by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Medecins Sans Frontier and other partners, and we recognize containing this outbreak will require many more areas like this.”

“Therefore, today, WHO is committing to step up its work with partners to build additional care facilities around Monrovia to expand the number of Ebola care beds by as many as 500 in the next 6 weeks,” Dr. Fukuda added. 

Although Ebola has a high fatality rate, experience has shown that even without new medicines, proper treatment of persons increases chance of survival. In addition, if it continues unabated, the Ebola outbreak could pose an additional risk to other health issues. Some health clinics have closed and resources have been shifted to the Ebola response. 

The UN delegation will continue to work with the government and other UN partners in the coming days to finalize the development of the coordinating platform and solidify the details of the additional assets needed to fill the gaps in the Ebola response plan.

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