An Ebola response worker dons protective gear. Photo courtesy of WHO
Nearly six months after the first case of Ebola in West Africa was reported to the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations (UN) General Assembly and the Security Council have approved resolutions creating the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) to contain the ongoing outbreak which has sickened more than 5,500 people and killed more than 2,500.
“This is not just a public health crisis. This is a social crisis, a humanitarian crisis, an economic crisis and a threat to national security well beyond the outbreak zones,” says Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO's director-general, to the UN Security Council on Thursday. “For these reasons, Mr. Secretary-General and I are calling for a UN-wide initiative that draws together all the assets of all relevant UN agencies."
This is the first time in history that the UN has created a mission for a public health emergency. The mission will bring together the vast resources of the UN agencies, funds and programs, to reinforce WHO’s technical expertise and experience in disease outbreaks.
While WHO plays a central role in leading the public health efforts for this response, the support of other UN agencies is essential to deal with the social, economic, development and security challenges that are affecting these countries and the region.
“This unprecedented outbreak requires an unprecedented response,” says Dr. David Nabarro, the UN secretary general’s senior coordinator for the Ebola response. “The number of cases have doubled in these countries in the last three weeks. To get in front off this, the response must be increased 20-fold from where it is today.”
The mission will immediately begin to pull together the assets from the relevant agencies. The hub of the mission will be located in Accra, Ghana. It will bring together the collective assets of the UN and work closely with the governments in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.