Geneva, 15 September 2014 – With the Ebola outbreak spreading through West Africa, football’s world governing body, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) has joined the United Nations in its efforts to help control the epidemic. Last Thursday, it was announced that the Antoinette Tubman Stadium in the Liberian capital Monrovia will be used to set up two large Ebola treatment units.
After the World Health Organization (WHO) identified the field as the most suitable location for the treatment units, the use of the pitch for this purpose raised concerns in the local community, who feared the facility could be damaged. The stadium was only recently donated by FIFA to Liberia’s Football Association. FIFA quickly pledged its support for the United Nations coordinated Ebola response in the affected countries. FIFA will cover the costs of potential damages arising from the use of the field to house the units. The Federation will also consider using resources from its solidarity fund to support the member associations of the particularly affected countries (Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea) in the fight against Ebola. The additional financial support could be spent in support of UN activities at national and community levels. The UN coordination structure set up under the leadership of the UN Senior Coordinator for Ebola, Dr. David Nabarro, will be key to channel this support. The UN coordination team will work closely with the United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace (UNOSDP) and sports organizations to identify needs, sources, assets and requirements and to allocate resources.
The Ebola virus outbreak has affected Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone most critically. In Liberia alone there have been more than 2,300 documented cases of infections with the virus, 1,200 of which have been fatal according to the WHO. In close cooperation with the UN Senior Coordinator for Ebola, Dr. David Nabarro, Mr. Wilfried Lemke immediately made use of his facilitation role as the Special Adviser to the United Nations Secretary-General on Sport for Development and Peace to help facilitate the agreement when he was informed about the situation.
According to Mr. Lemke, “The Ebola outbreak also has a tremendous impact on the sport community, ranging from health threats to the athletes themselves and restrictions of travel affecting competitions and the development of sport. National authorities, the UN and the world of sport need to work closely together in order to halt the spread of the disease. The commitment of sport organisations to support our efforts is very much welcomed and crucial. It is my hope that many will join in this fight. In particular I was very pleased to note FIFA’s pledge to support health-related measures by agreeing to cover potential damages to the football pitch of the Antoinette Tubman stadium in Monrovia, Liberia that has been earmarked for the use for Ebola treatment centres.”
In the past there have been other examples of the active relationship between the Special Adviser, UNOSDP, and FIFA. This is highlighted inter alia by FIFA’s agreement to allow women to wear head scarves while participating in official football matches for which Mr. Lemke played a facilitating role. Another outcome of his efforts was a joint message of Brazil, UN and FIFA for non-discrimination and peace at this year’s FIFA World Cup. Later Mr. Lemke participated in a Football for Hope panel discussion. Football for Hope is FIFA’s Sport for Development initiative; the Special Adviser has previously taken part in and supported an array of its activities.