WHO director-general Dr. Margaret Chan visits the Ebola treatment center in Mali. Photo courtesy of WHO Mali/Yvette Bivigou
Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO) visited an Ebola treatment center in Bamako, Mali. She met with President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, Prime Minister Moussa Mara, and other government leaders to discuss Mali’s ongoing Ebola outbreak response and ways United Nations organizations could enhance their support. The visit occurred as the government announced a new case of Ebola and said two more suspected patients were being tested.
At least five people have died from Ebola in Mali already, and the country has been working diligently to trace several hundred contacts of the recent Ebola cases to prevent extensive spread of the disease in the country.
"In the past few weeks, Mali has responded quickly to find people who came into contact with someone infected with the disease," says Chan. "This rapid response was essential to prevent the disease from spreading. It is vital right now that WHO and all other UN organizations working in Mali support the government in maintaining this strong response until we are certain this outbreak is contained."
Chan also met with representatives at the with the Center for Vaccine Development where a vaccine against the virus is currently in the first phase of human testing and with other UN agencies and civil society groups working in communities to prevent the spread of Ebola.
"The President and Prime Minister committed to strong leadership and coordination in this response especially with community organizations," says Chan. "We know one of the most important elements to containing Ebola is robust community engagement with influential community leaders to fight stigma and utilize communications to advocate safe cultural practices."
The United Nations is ramping up support on many fronts to support both the preparedness and response efforts of the government including with the announcement on Friday that the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) would establish an office in the country.
These positive changes plus the support of the UN and other partners will enhance Mali's capability and capacity to contain transmission from the second case across the border, and respond robustly to any future importation.