UNMIL SRSG Remarks - WHO Press Briefing - July 22, 2014

22 Jul 2014

UNMIL SRSG Remarks - WHO Press Briefing - July 22, 2014

Near verbatim remarks - WHO Press  Conference
Your Excellency Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, WHO Regional Director, Dr. Luis G. Sambo, Dr. Walter Gwenigale, Minister of Health and your colleagues

The Ebola outbreak that has reached Liberia demands attention at the highest possible level and is receiving it, which is extremely important. This outbreak is the largest ever in the region; the largest since Ebola was identified 40 years ago. And as we heard from Dr. Gwenigale, it’s also Liberia’s first experience of Ebola. Just as important as the high-level attention is community engagement. Several speakers have referred to that. The situation demands that all Liberians and all of us who work here are all committed to preventing further spread of this disease.

UNMIL and the UN Country team look forward to the completion of Liberia’s comprehensive strategy and plans for an accelerated response to the epidemic.

The Government continues to play the lead in the response and prevention, but I want to assure everyone that UNMIL and the UN Country Team are fully committed to supporting all these critical Government activities. You’ve heard a great deal about the importance of community engagement. UNMIL is also committed to using our extensive outreach and presence in the counties to support engagement at those levels. UNMIL and seven UN agencies are actively involved in providing support across all the thematic areas in which there is activity. UNMIL also stands ready to use our logistical capacities in-country to continue providing support, and I will of course continue to inform the Security Council and other member states of the situation in Liberia, which has as yet fortunately not been hit as hard as its neighbors. Our goal is that Ebola is rolled back – not only in Liberia but across the region.  As we’ve heard it’s a highly deadly disease, but it is also a preventable one.

UNMIL’s public information is supporting the Government through radio and community outreach. We have a dedicated daily radio program on Ebola information with Ebola News and interviews throughout the day; UNMIL is rolling out a community outreach plan with the health ministry and other actors. Nothing is more urgent than community outreach and all of us as partners need to support this activity at community level to persuade any Ebola deniers that are still there and train, in a simple but effective good practices, more prevention.

I was very impressed coming into this building this morning when I was stopped and the demand was made that I wash my hands before entering – quite right and well done. I want to strongly acknowledge the leadership of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and the many committed Liberian health workers who continue to try to prevent and respond, twelve of whom have lost their lives in this work. I also acknowledge the fantastic work of many NGO’s and other partners who are on the frontline of this and who have stepped in with very substantial human and material resources to combat Ebola in Liberia. The closing points are Ebola is real, the response plan is key, and Liberia’s partners, including the UN, stand with you in this effort.

Thank you