Ebola: UN special envoy appeals to Liberians to remain vigilant, sustain response

By | 4 December 2014

Liberia, 3 December 2014 – The United Nations Special Envoy on Ebola, Dr. David Nabarro, today took his message directly to the people of Liberia, applauding them for the progress made so far in combating the virus, but cautioning that “the most dangerous time is actually when it looks as though you are near a point where the disease is coming under control because people relax and stop being vigilant.”

A health worker wearing personal protective equipment helps a colleague adjusts her cap during a training session in Sierra Leone. Photo: UNICEF/John James

A health worker wearing personal protective equipment helps a colleague adjusts her cap during a training session in Sierra Leone. Photo: UNICEF/John James

While congratulating the Government and people of Liberia for the progress made so far as reflected by “clear evidence” that new cases of Ebola were reducing, Dr. Nabarro said in an interview with UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) radio, in Monrovia: “The disease has not gone away.”

“You have to stay alert, vigilant and sustain the response until every last person with Ebola infection is able to be treated and then the virus goes away,” he said. “That continued alert and vigilance is absolutely essential, otherwise things will get worse again like they were in August and September.”

During his visit, he met with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, as well as staff at the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response’s (UNMEER) office in Monrovia, and key Ebola response partners in the country.

In his radio interview, Dr. Nabarro urged Liberians to “to work at county level to continue to find people who are suspected to having Ebola and make sure they are properly assessed and diagnosed, and then treated.”

“In all disease control efforts, we see that the most dangerous time is actually when it looks as though you are near a point where the disease is coming under control because people relax and stop being vigilant,” he said. “And so we need to have the money, commitment and the people until every last case is under treatment.”

He also encouraged Liberians to “work with other countries in the region so they too can move into direction you have.”

Meanwhile, World Bank Group President, Jim Yong Kim, who is also in the region, travelled today from Guinea to Sierra Leone, where he pledged his organization will stay “until it gets to zero Ebola cases,” boost economic development and open doors for businesses in the West African country.

Mr. Kim said in remarks to reporters in Conakry however, that the Bank did not “need to wait until we get to zero cases to start working on the economic recovery, so our second area of support is agriculture.”

“We are concerned that agricultural production has dropped significantly as a result of this Ebola epidemic,” he said. “We will help farmers recover from this crisis by boosting agriculture productivity, enhancing the skills of workers, as well as by promoting regional trade integration. We must make sure that the Ebola epidemic is not followed by a food security crisis.”

The UN World Health Organization today released its latest figures on the outbreak, which showed that 17,145 reported cases with 6070 reported deaths. WHO also reported that new cases were slightly increasing in Guinea, stable or declining in Liberia, and “may still be increasing in Sierra Leone.”

“Response activities in the three intense-transmission countries continue to intensify in line with the UNMEER aim to isolate and treat 70 per cent of cases, and safely bury 70 per cent Ebola-related deaths by 1 December, with the ultimate goal of reaching 100 per cent by 1 January,” the WHO report said.

Meanwhile today, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, has established an Ebola isolation centre in the refugee camp in Kouankan, Guinea hosting more than 5,000 refugees, UNMEER reported, adding that no Ebola cases have yet been registered in the camp.