UN News, New York
Four hundred motorbikes equipped with cooler boxes will help speed up deliveries of blood samples to laboratories from remote areas of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone and reduce the waiting time for Ebola test results, thanks to a donation from Germany to the United Nations.
At UN Headquarters, meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters that the immediate priorities of the United Nations are to stop the virus and to treat all the people who have Ebola. “We have to ensure that all essential services are provided, and also we have to help them preserve their social and political stability, and keeping a further outbreak from happening.”
In the long run, the Secretary-General emphasized the importance of countries to have sound, robust health systems. He was speaking on the eve of a special high-level meeting of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) tomorrow to examine the threat Ebola outbreak poses to sustainable development and possible solutions to strengthen the capacity of the affected countries to deal with future health shocks.
Meanwhile, the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) said that a member of its military personnel has tested positive for the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) and that test came back yesterday. The patient is receiving treatment at an Ebola Treatment Unit in Monrovia. The latest is the third case of Ebola in the mission.
The Head of the Mission, Karin Landgren, said UNMIL had taken immediate steps to prevent further transmission. In line with established WHO protocols, immediate and robust contact tracing was initiated to ensure that all those who came into contact with the individual while he was symptomatic have been assessed and quarantined.
In Mali, Mr. Ban’s Special Envoy on Ebola, Dr. David Nabarro, said a “very powerful effort” was under way to stop the spread of the virus in that country but “as long as there is Ebola in any neighbouring country, Mali needs to be on high alert, all the time.”
Dr. Nabarro discussed the current situation and measures being taken during a series of meetings with President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta and other Malian Government officials as well as with the head of the UNMEER in Mali, Dr. Ibrahima Socé Fall and other senior UN representatives in the country.
“There is a big engagement of the whole population … the whole of society. The Government itself is working very effectively, particularly at the frontiers,” Dr. Nabarro said.
According to WHO, there have been eight cases of Ebola in Mali as of 3 December. Six of them have been fatal, one has been cured, and one confirmed case remains hospitalized at a treatment centre in Bamako.
The latest Ebola update from WHO today put the number of cases at 17,256 with 6,113 deaths.
In Accra, Ghana, this morning, German Ambassador to that country, Ruediger John, stopped by the UN Humanitarian Response Depot to officially hand over 400 motorbikes. The will be used to bring blood samples to laboratories for Ebola testing from the most affected areas of Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea.
The head of the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER), headquartered in Accra, Anthony Banbury, thanked the German people for their donation. “It’s really been a great partnership. It’s an excellent example of international collaboration,” he said.
UNMEER spokesman Ari Gaitanis said: “Using these bikes will help cut down transport times, in some areas quite dramatically, given some of the terrain involved.”
The UN World Food Programme (WFP), meanwhile, has started distributing food rations in Bamako, Mali, to households under observation for Ebola symptoms. WFP trained volunteers on safe distribution and provided personal protection equipment, including gloves, glasses and masks.