The international community must “step up” its response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa before it gets much worse, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed today , adding that a range of measures – from extra financing to increased medical assistance – were essential in helping the countries afflicted by the disease.
In remarks made at a special meeting focusing on the Ebola virus and held at the World Bank in Washington, D.C., the Secretary-General noted that while dozens of countries are providing life-saving contributions and forming the “building blocks for a global response coalition,” cases of the disease are “growing exponentially,” as are fears about its spread outside West Africa.
“The best antidote to fear is an effective and urgent response. We need a 20-fold resource mobilization,” Mr. Ban told those gathered, as he called for more mobile laboratories, vehicles, helicopters, protective equipment, trained medical personnel and medevac capacities to be provided in order to stay Ebola’s advance.
In particular, he urged the global community to set five specific priorities, including stopping the outbreak, treating those infected, providing essential services, preserving stability, and preventing outbreaks in non-affected countries.
On that note, he also applauded the World Bank for approving $400 million in grants and loans for the affected countries as well as the medical and support personnel working on the ground to save lives.
Commenting on the wider UN response, the Secretary-General noted the steady ramping up of the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER), with the UN World Health Organization (WHO) at its centre. Yesterday, he convened a UN system-wide meeting with WHO chief, Dr. Margaret Chan participating and Dr. David Nabarro, Special Envoy on Ebola, and Tony Banbury, the head of UNMEER, also participating.
The outbreak of Ebola, a highly contagious and fatal virus transmitted through close contact with the infected, has spread rapidly across West Africa since early cases were detected in March, leaving thousands of sick and dead in its wake and sowing panic among local communities.
In a recent update, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) reported 8,033 cases and 3,879 deaths from Ebola based on information provided by the Ministries of Health of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. The agency notes that the upward epidemic trend continues in Sierra Leone and most probably also in Liberia. By contrast, the situation in Guinea appears to be more stable, though, in the context of an Ebola outbreak, a stable pattern of transmission is still of a very grave concern, and could change quickly.
The health agency noted that 375 health care workers are known to have developed Ebola (67 in Guinea, 184 in Liberia, 11 in Nigeria, and 113 in Sierra Leone), and 211 of them have died as a result (35 in Guinea, 89 in Liberia, five in Nigeria, and 82 in Sierra Leone).
Two countries, Nigeria and Senegal, have now reported a case or cases imported from a country with widespread and intense transmission. In Nigeria, there have been 20 cases and eight deaths. In Senegal, there has been one case, but as yet there have been no deaths. The disease has also been tracked to the United States and Spain. The Secretary-General warned that “things will get worse before they get better” but observed that how much worse was up to the international community and its effectiveness in stepping up to the challenge posed by the disease.
“It’s a matter of action,” Mr. Ban urged. “We need to act.”