UN: UN Ebola mission chief commends progress, warns against complacency

New York, US (PANA) - On his first tour of Ebola-stricken Liberia, the newly Head of the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER), Mr. Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed on Wednesday outlined his vision to tackle the scourge in what he called a "3C approach", which he described as recognizing the vital roles of "countries, communities and coordination".

Briefing journalists at Spryggs Airport in Monrovia, Mr. Ould Cheikh Ahmed described his first impression of the situation on the ground as "mixed".

A transcript of the briefing made available to PANA in New York, quoted the UN envoy as saying that, "on one hand I begin my post with a lot of optimism, but on the other hand, I recognize mounting challenges to end Ebola".

"We are not yet there. There is certainly still a lot to be done for Liberia to be claimed free of Ebola," he said, expressing concern that successes and optimism may provoke a "degree of complacency".

During his visit, the new UNMEER head met with the President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Minister of Health, representatives of non-governmental organizations, and the UN system which remains “quite active” on the ground.

Mr. Ahmed, who also visited a treatment centre, as well as Grand Cape Mount County, which has seen a recent flare-up of cases was accompanied by the UN Special Envoy on Ebola David Nabarro.

He said: "My visit to the treatment centre has confirmed that we still have in certain places figures which for us are too high." He stressed the need to "stay alert" and keep up the same degree of mobilization from the Liberian government and international community.

"Ebola response is and should be a government-driven battle, as it is about their people, about the fate of their country," he told reporters.

The UNMEER chief also recognized the role of countries in the fight against the epidemic, as well as the need support the grassroots efforts of stricken communities.

"If we do not tackle this at the community level, there will be no zero-Ebola achievement. The community leaders, religious leaders and the communities themselves must not only acknowledge the existence of Ebola but also the battle it will take to win that behavioural change against a very limited amount of time.

Mr. Ahmed also said that so far he has seen when he met survivors and leaders is that there is strong resolve there which must be "sustained and maintained".

The last "C" of his "3C approach", which he hopes to be leading, is coordination.

"There are a lot of actors coming to this, many with very good intentions. But we are too many and sometimes when there are too many cooks in the kitchen it is very difficult to get the meal out. We have to coordinate ourselves, we have to organize better," he stressed.

At the same time, he said, "a lot is also owed to the Liberians themselves, for determination, their will and their strength".

"The Liberians have made this their battle. The people I have met with are at the community level are leaders of the communities or religious leaders, imams, church leaders. All of them have extraordinary resolve," the envoy added.

Mr. Ahmed, who succeeds UNMEER’s inaugural chief, Anthony Banbury, will be in Sierra Leone on Thursday and Guinea next week.

According to the latest figures from the World Health Organization (WHO), in the hard-hit West African region, some 8,220 have died from the Ebola outbreak.
-0- PANA AA/MA 7Jan2015

07 january 2015 22:59:49

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