UN: UN official says Ebola response must include efforts to bolster health systems

New York, US (PANA) - The President of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Martin Sajdik, has said that, while the priority is to stop the Ebola outbreak, measures must also ensure that the emergency response is linked to longer-term efforts to strengthen health systems in those countries hit the hardest.

Sajdik, who spoke at a press briefing at UN headquarters in New York late Thursday, said: "We have to get the response right", stressing that the pledges for the Ebola response must have sustainable impact on the ground and leave behind the foundation for a robust public health system.

He expressed his deepest sympathies to the families of the victims of the Ebola outbreak, and
commended the tireless efforts of health workers and the governments of the affected countries, namely Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Mali.

He noted that as follow-up on ECOSOC special meeting, tagged: "Ebola: A threat to sustainable development", he said the the Council intends to contribute to the process of defining a coordinated and comprehensive response to minimize the economic and social impact of the outbreak.

Sajdik also commended the leadership of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the UN response through the Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER).

"It is critical for the international community to join forces to address the multidimensional nature of the Ebola outbreak that threatens millions of the poorest and the most vulnerable, and sustained global action includes funding, technical assistance and management of resources in the affected countries," he said

The UN official also expressed concern over the low percentage of development aid being
disbursed through national systems in the affected countries, saying "Whenever possible, donors should be responsive to the financial needs defined by the government, including salary support for civil servants and front line health care workers."

He also stressed the need to consider debt relief and concessional loans for all affected countries.

On the proposed Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in Africa, Sajdik said it must be
equipped with the latest technologies necessary to provide immediate response to epidemics.

In addition, he said it is important to invest more resources in strengthening national institutions by investing directly through countries’ national institutions, while donors must prioritize the strengthening of its public sector, including health, education, sanitation and the economy, so as to safeguard affected countries against future crises.

According to him: "This will allow us to build health systems capable of responding to
emergencies and of withstanding shocks such as Ebola."

Sajdik also proposed that the UN system, under the leadership of the UN Secretary-General,
should conduct a comprehensive study on the economic and social impact of the Ebola outbreak, building on the work being done by the Economic Commission for Africa, the World Bank and the UN Development Programme.

"This study, to be considered by the Council in a follow-up meeting in 2015, could be part
of a wider examination of all aspects of the impact of the Ebola outbreak. This study could
also be considered by other relevant United Nations bodies," he added.

Also, briefing reporters at UN headquarters in New York, Dr. David Nabarro said that having
returned from the region last week, he was inspired by the progress made in Ebola response
efforts compared to September.

He said the response differs from urban areas to rural areas, but the trend seems to be that
if communities are fully involved there is likely to be a reduction in number of cases.

"In eastern Sierra Leone, transmission has reduced, however, in the west of the country
including in the capital, Freetown, there is intense transmission and health workers are
trying to get the response moving quickly.

"Communities everywhere are beginning to understand their own role in curbing the
outbreak, and often there has to be a negotiation between responders and communities
because lack of communication could lead to distress and a complete breakdown of efforts,"
Nabarro stated.

The envoy also said that the thousands of people working as responders are "amazing",
saying: "They put their lives on the line every day."

He said it was heartening that Time Magazine just named Ebola health workers "Person of the
Year", but he is still troubled that many of the Ebola responders have died because of their
commitment to try to help others.

Regarding the private sector role, he said that "without business, recovery won’t happen",
and added that earlier today he had met with 200 business leaders to discuss how they
can help in Ebola recovery and rebuilding affected economies.

Also on Thursday, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced the appointment of
Mr. Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed of Mauritania as his new Special Representative and head

Mr. Ould Cheikh Ahmed succeeds Anthony Banbury of the US, who will return to New York
in early January 2015.

Ban expressed his gratitude to Mr. Banbury for his vision and leadership of UNMEER, and
for his commitment to fighting this outbreak.

In his role as Special Representative, Mr. Ould Cheikh Ahmed will work closely with the UN
Special Envoy on Ebola, Dr. David Nabarro, and with the governments in the region and
other partners.
-0- PANA AA/VAO 12Dec2014

12 december 2014 07:43:42

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