UN: 'Progress made in global fight against Ebola'

New York, US (PANA) - Head of the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER)
Anthony Banbury said important progress has been made in the global fight against Ebola, but noted that a scaling-up in the overall response remains necessary if the deadly outbreak is
to be fully stopped.

Mr. Banbury, who briefed the 193-member UN General Assembly on the international community’s Ebola response to the epidemic late Thursday in New York, also cautioned
against complacency in tackling the disease.

The envoy drew particular attention to the "grim milestone" of more than 5,000 confirmed
deaths from the disease, "with the real numbers likely to be much greater".

He also observed that during his recent trips to front line countries in hard-hit West Africa,
the respective governments had repeatedly stressed the devastating impact the outbreak
has had on every aspect of their societies, injecting fear into communities, affecting their
way of life and the high number of human toll,  as well as leaving numerous orphans in
its wake.

Others are skyrocketing food prices, school closures, empty markets and collapsing
government revenues.

"At the same time, many good things are also happening," he said, noting that some of the early predictions regarding the sustained exponential increase in victims had not materialised.

"Indeed, there have been significant improvements in many of the dramatically hit areas, such as Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, as well as tremendous progress towards the stated UN goal of managing and treating 70 per cent of Ebola cases and making safe 70 per cent of burials by 1 Dec.

The percentages, Mr. Banbury explained, were now 55 and 80, respectively, although there were still many unknown and unreported cases.

The UN official also said community-level action is one of the main reasons for the progress, praising "those local communities that have taken action, that have changed their behaviour in order to protect themselves their members, and they deserve a tremendous amount of credit".

In addition, he said that national-led responses, in coordination with international partners, were also making a difference, noting that the Governments of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea are taking a serious leadership role in driving the response, built around strengthened Ebola treatment facilities, contact tracing and diagnostic capabilities, safer burials, and social mobilisation.

The UNMEER chief also praised his mission’s approach to tackling the challenges in West Africa and pointed out that the UN, overall, has responded to Ebola in an "unprecedented way across bureaucratic barriers in record time", a feat, he said, "everyone can rightly be proud of".

Mr. Banbury, however, expressed apprehension over the tasks that lay ahead, confessing that he feared he had "not done enough and that collectively we must do more and do it faster".

"Ebola is a fearsome enemy and we will not win by chasing it. We must get ahead of it. We need more staff to be deployed to the districts where the disease is.

"In terms of the broader response, we need more Ebola treatment facilities, more community care centres, more partners on the ground to staff these centres and we need greater mobility for the teams. And we need money to pay for it all," he said.

Also speaking, UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Ebola David  Nabarro said he was "humbled" by the efforts made in combating the disease and reiterated his claim that Ebola remained one of the most troubling challenges that the world could face.

Dr. Nabarro cited the positive efforts made by local communities in changing the way they live and behave to reduce their likelihood of contracting the disease and said he was impressed by the unprecedented global response coalition which was developing and functioning as a joint community.

He also called on the international community to accelerate its response efforts,saying: "Let us continue to provide the maximum possible support to the governments."

On his part, UN General Assembly President Sam Kutesa confirmed the "important improvements" made on the ground following recent front line reports from Guinea and Liberia suggesting significant decreases in infection rates.

But, Mr Kutesa warned, while the number of new cases was slowing down, the total number across the region still remained perilously high.

"The resounding message from those in the hardest hit areas is that while we are making encouraging progress in combating Ebola, we have not yet won the war, we must do more to ensure that the momentum is sustained and that critical resources reach those in urgent need without delay," he said.
-0- PANA AA/SEG 14Nov2014

14 november 2014 05:54:50

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