In Guinea, as Ebola spread slows, Ban pledges UN support towards total eradication

Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon (r), with Dr. Margaret Chan, Director General, World Health Organization (WHO) (c), with Guinean President Alpha Conde (l) in Conakry. December 2014. UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon (r), with Dr. Margaret Chan, Director General, World Health Organization (WHO) (c), with Guinean President Alpha Conde (l) in Conakry. December 2014. UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Guinea, 20 December 2014 – Cautioning that much remains to be done to wipe out Ebola in Guinea, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today that joint national, regional and global efforts have “significantly” slowed the spread of the deadly virus, giving hope to thousands of people and providing space for communities to look ahead to socio-economic recovery.

“Thanks to the determination of national authorities, the mobilization of affected populations and with partners around the world, the spread of the virus has been significantly slowed in some regions of the country,” said Mr. Ban during a press conference in Conakry alongside Guinean President Alpha Condé.

“However, much remains to be done. Ebola continues to spread and is a serious risk for all Guineans. The UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) and our partners are here to help you. It has never been more important to work together,” said the Secretary-General.

Following “very successful” discussions with President Condé on the country’s Ebola response, the UN chief said he had delivered a personal message to the people of Guinea:

“The United Nations will support you until the epidemic is halted and the country to recover from its devastating effects.”

The Secretary-has been in West Africa since Thursday, on a mission of solidarity to show support for the people and governments on the front lines battling the world’s worst-ever outbreak of Ebola.

After a stop at UNMEER’s home base in Accra, Ghana, Mr. Ban visited Liberia and Sierra Leone yesterday. Later today, he heads to Mali. He is being accompanied by the head of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Margaret Chan, as well as his Special Envoy for Ebola, Dr. David Nabarro, and the head of UNMEER, Anthony Banbury.

Along the way, Mr. Ban has expressed cautious optimism that Ebola can be beat in West Africa. In respective meetings with Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone, he stressed that the approach against Ebola is adapting to the shifting evolution of the outbreak as it becomes more geographically dispersed.

The Secretary General’s visit and call for continued vigilance comes as the WHO reports in its latest regional statistics on the outbreak that Ebola is affecting some 19,031 people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone and has killed 7,373.

In his remarks in Conakry, the Secretary-General said that progress against Ebola has given hope to defeat the disease to thousands of people – doctors, care givers and people affected by the virus – especially those fighting for their lives.

“All Guineans – government officials, community leaders, traditional healers and local communities – will be actively involved in the fight against the disease to end the epidemic,” said Mr. Ban, noting that he had spoken with President Condé about the situation in Forest Guinea, where there has been a “worrying” increase in the number of patients.

The two leaders also agreed that it was strong cross-border cooperation is need, particularly in the framework of the Mano River Union, to keep the virus from spreading or from bouncing back in areas where the number of transmissions had decreased.

Thanking President Condé for his Government’s efforts, the Secretary-General said that he had just met with dedicated health care workers in the country and expressed his “deep admiration…for those on the frontline, the thousands of men and women from Guinea and other countries of the world who are struggling to save lives.” P>

Further, Mr. Ban said in the long term, the Ebola outbreak may have serious socio-economic consequences.

“While our immediate priority is to stop the spread of the disease, it is not too early to start thinking about recovery,” he underscored, echoing a call he has made at every stop in the region, to boost efforts to restore basic social services, strengthen health services, support the economy and increase resilience in the affected countries.

Wrapping up his comments, the Secretary General emphasized that the countries of Africa and the world have mounted and “extraordinary” response to tackle the Ebola outbreak. “I invite the international community to remain mobilized. Our common goal is to eradicate the disease completely,” he declared, pledging that he and the United Nations family are committed to doing everything possible to help Guinea.

Flying on to Mali later in the day, Mr. Ban met in Bamako with President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta. According to a read-out the meting from the Office of his spokesperson, the Secretary-General expressed his appreciation for the swift and determined reaction by Malian authorities to imported cases of Ebola.

Further to the read-out, Mr. Ban and President Keïta agreed on the importance of remaining vigilant to the ongoing threat of Ebola in the region and of continuing to strengthen national systems’ preparedness.

In addition, the Secretary-Genera reiterated his call for positive engagement by President Keïta and his Government in the Inter-Malian dialogue. He stressed that sustainable peace in Mali is the only way to achieve sustainable development, said the read-out.