UN: UN chief commends courage, commitment of Ebola health workers

New York, US (PANA) - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says the memorable and moving example of a Sierra Leonean nurse who had contracted Ebola, but became a caregiver as soon as she had recovered was, commendable and that kind of commitment should move everybody to do more to end the outbreak in West Africa.

The UN chief made the remarks on Monday when he spoke to reporters at UN headquarters in New York on his return from a trip to Ebola affected countries of Guinea, Liberia, Mali and Sierra Leone, as well as Accra, Ghana, the headquarters of the UN Ebola Emergency Response Mission (UNMEER).

Ban said the courage and commitment of Ebola health workers should inspire greater efforts by everybody in ensuring the epidemic was eradicated, noting also that the UN response was a rapid, effective and comprehensive one.

"Over the past few days, I witnessed immense suffering. Ebola is a terrible disease that denies the humanity of its victims and stigmatizes its survivors. But I also saw almost superhuman acts of kindness and support," he stated.

He said he saw the progress being made and the slowing of the rate of transmission in many places, stressing that, "where the strategy of isolation of the patients and treatment, contact tracing and safe and dignified burial is implemented, it is working, and some areas that were once hot spots, such as Lofa County in Liberia, it has been free of Ebola for weeks."

Ban also noted a memorable and moving encounter at a local Ebola Treatment Unit in Sierra Leone with a nurse named Rebecca Johnson, who contracted the disease, survived and then immediately became a caregiver again.

The secretary-general said he also met other patients who proudly showed off their certificates, stating that they were cured completely of Ebola.

"Nurse Johnson’s commitment should move us all to do more to end the outbreak and to stop the stigma that she and so many victims and caregivers face," he said.

Ban also outlined four steps as "especially urgent" to respond to Ebola, which the World Health Organization (WHO) said in its latest update released on Monday, was affecting 19,340 people and had so far killed 7,418.

"The outbreak is evolving, and so has our response," he said, noting that instead of one outbreak spreading relentlessly from the epicentre, there are now dozens of isolated chains of transmission.

Also, he said that there was increasing emphasis on hunting the virus, saying: "We cannot afford to miss a single case."

The UN chief went on to say that, "we must step up recovery efforts now" adding that he had asked the UN system, led by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), to plan the recovery for the region.

"That means restoring essential services, getting children back in school, getting people back to work, rebuilding shattered economies and caring for thousands of orphans, and lastly, the international community needs better early warning and rapid response.

"I intend to engage UN member states in a serious effort to explore what more we can do to stay ahead of the next outbreak of disease – a test that is sure to come."

He further stressed the need for more resources and help for the countries and people affected by Ebola – human resources, medical doctors and nurses and health workers, and financial support and equipment and logistical support.

Meanwhile, the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) reported on Monday that votes were being counted in Liberia's senate election held on Saturday and that turnout in the poll was low as many people decided to stay away.

It stated: "Those who came to polling stations had their temperature taken, were told to stand a meter apart and wash their hands before and after voting."

In another development, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) on Monday said it was launching, together with the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation, a public fund-raising campaign with "Tencent", which it described as one of the world’s largest internet companies, to raise funds to fight Ebola.

WFP said funds raised from the campaign would go towards WFP’s emergency operations to meet basic food and nutrition needs of affected families and communities in the three countries worst impacted by Ebola, namely Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.

The UN agency has said since the Ebola outbreak began earlier this year, it has provided food assistance to more than 2 million people and has supported the medical response through logistical services for the entire humanitarian community, including air transport of people and goods.
-0- PANA AA/MA 22Dec2014

22 december 2014 21:39:58

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