UN: High-Level Meeting on Response to Ebola Virus Disease Outbreak

UN: High-Level Meeting on Response to Ebola Virus Disease Outbreak
25 September 2014 – AM Meeting
‘Every Day, Every Minute, Counts,’ Warns World Health Organization Head at High-Level Meeting on Response to Ebola Virus Disease Outbreak
[Excerpt; Editor’s text bolding]

With the Ebola virus claiming the lives of 200 people each day, most of them women, world leaders at a high-level Headquarters meeting Thursday implored the international community to swiftly ramp up the response to the epidemic ravaging West Africa before it turned into a humanitarian catastrophe.

“Every day, every minute, counts,” said Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), insisting “We must try harder.” Overflowing treatment centres were turning away sick and dying patients. In some areas no treatment beds were available, she said, stressing the need for more centres, as well as community-based care facilities.

United States President Barack Obama agreed. “We are not moving fast enough. We are not doing enough. Right now, everybody has the best of intentions, but people are not putting in the kind of resources that are necessary to put a stop to this epidemic,” he said.

The worst ever outbreak of the virus already had caused a collapse of the public health systems in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone — the three most affected countries. If left unchecked, the crisis could quickly become a global threat; stopping it was in everyone’s interest. Last week, the Security Council determined that the outbreak was a threat to international peace and security, adopting resolution 2177 (2014) to that effect.

Mr. Obama today called on international organizations to “cut through red tape and mobilize partners on the ground”, and on Governments to contribute more critical assets such as air transport, medical evacuation, health-care workers and equipment…

…United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said advance teams had already deployed to the three most-affected countries and to the newly formed United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER), based in Accra, Ghana, which would lead the Organization’s system-wide response. “We are focusing on stopping the outbreak, treating the infected, providing essential services, preserving stability, and preventing outbreaks in non-affected countries,” he said.

The crisis had highlighted the need to strengthen early identification systems and action, he said. The international community should consider forming a stand-by “white coats” corps of medical professionals, backed by WHO expertise and the United Nations logistical capacity.

“Now is the time for a robust and united effort to stop the outbreak. The world can and must stop Ebola — now,” he said, warning that while dozens of countries and organizations were making lifesaving contributions, they fell short of the 20-fold increase required….

…Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf said “partners and friends, based on understandable fears, have ostracized us, shipping and airline services have sanctioned us and the world has taken some time to fully appreciate and adequately respond to the enormity of our tragedy”.

More than 1,700 Liberians had died already, among them 85 health-care workers, she said. Facing perhaps its greatest challenge ever, her nation was fighting back, building and staffing more treatment centres, and moving more aggressively to prevent the disease’s spread and to change the behaviour at the local level through community outreach.

“We cannot allow the projection of a worst-case scenario: that over 100,000 of our innocent citizens will die from an enemy disease they did not start and do not understand, that the resulting effect will reverse our gains in malaria control and child and maternal mortality,” she said.

Ernest Bai Koroma, President of Sierra Leone, said he had declared a state of emergency, shutting down the country for three days to get more than 27,000 health-care educators into every household in the country and reallocating millions of dollars from other vital services to combat Ebola….

…Alpha Condé, President of Guinea, said the outbreak was a threat to international peace and security. The response should be used to rebuild and strengthen the affected countries’ infrastructure so that once the crisis was over they could again foster economic growth and maintain stability….