Anthony Banbury, head of the first ever United Nations System-wide Emergency Health Mission called the UN Mission for the Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER), arrived in Liberia yesterday as part of a tour of the three countries most affected by the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak.
In each country, he will review progress in the Ebola eradication effort and areas where the UN can do more to help, an UNMEER press release said.
Upon his arrival, Banbury met with President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and UNMIL/UNMEER staff.
Banbury, who was appointed in September, comes to the end of his tour of duty on January 3, 2015. He will be replaced by Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed of Mauritania, who is expected to visit the Ebola affected countries early next year.
Included in Banbury‘s two-day stay in the country, was a trip to Sinje, Grand Cape Mount County yesterday for the opening of the new 50-bed Ebola Treatment Unit, which is expected to be run by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
According to head of the Incident Management System (IMS), Assistant Health Minister Tolbert Nyenswah, Grand Cape Mount recently reported 49 new cases of which 27 were confirmed, 13 suspected and 9 probable. He said this put Cape Mount in the Red County Category second to Montserrado in the country.
Despite these new cases, the incidence of EVD nationwide has been declining since mid-November.
Lofa County has not reported any new cases in eight consecutive weeks. UNMEER Liberia Ebola Crisis Manager, Peter Graff, described this as significant, as Lofa County, the initial site of the first outbreak in Liberia, is bordered by Sierra Leone and Guinea. Both countries are grappling with the Ebola Virus outbreak.
UNMEER coordination and information sharing with the community, medical personnel, county health teams and non-governmental organizations are credited for the success in beating back the virus. However, there is still more work to be done in terms of contact tracing, behavioral change and the cross border prevention and control of EVD.
Banbury will also travel to Saniquellie, Nimba County where he will meet with the County Health Team and healthcare workers.
With regard to the UNMEER Ebola reduction strategy, Liberia has met the 70-70-60 target set by Banbury, standing for 70% of reported infected people taken to health care facilities and 70% of burials conducted safely in the three most affected countries by the 60th day of the mission started on 1st October.
To reach zero new cases, UNMEER has also supported Liberia in the organization and launch of the Ebola Must Go! Stopping Ebola is Everybody’s Business Campaign.
Recognizing the importance of this initiative by the end of the year, Mr. Banbury pledged $10,000 dollars to the campaign and $1,000 dollars to the UNICEF-designated New Georgia Signboard Community where the campaign was launched December 8, 2014. In early December UNMEER also donated 10 Nissan Patrols to the Liberian Ministry of Health and Social Welfare.
In addition, Banbury, working closely with the Governments of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, is coordinating cross-border efforts to fight Ebola.
After visiting Liberia, he will conclude his tour of the region with a trip to Sierra Leone.