As the UNSC convenes for emergency meeting in New York, international community must do more to prevent health catastrophe.
As the UN Security Council meets today for only the second time in history to address a world health emergency, the Ebola crisis continues to devastate communities in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. Without concerted and immediate international action to tackle this crisis, the outbreak could see these countries’ hard-fought for progress set back years, bringing the healthcare system to its knees and, for Liberia and Sierra Leone, back to levels not seen since the end of their respective civil wars.
Current reports estimate that over 2,450 people have already lost their lives in West Africa and thousands more are fighting the highly-contagious virus. Recent forecasts put the number of potential infections at 20,000 if nothing is done soon. With no known cure, less than half of those infected are expected to survive.
While millions of children worldwide start their new school year this week, filled with excitement and hope, the classrooms in Ebola-affected countries remain eerily quiet, as communities are forced into quarantine for the foreseeable future. Many other countries in West Africa are currently on alert. Vacant farmland has not been ploughed in time for next year’s harvest, raising real concerns that families will not be able to provide for loved ones over the coming months. Over-crowded rural clinics are being forced to turn away pregnant mothers and young children suffering from malaria, tuberculosis and other life-threatening diseases.
With extremely limited or no medical facilities or trained doctors to help contain the outbreak, the Governments of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone are doing all they can to contain the epidemic. Even before the current crisis, Liberia had just 51 medical doctors to serve a population of 3.7 million people, and Sierra Leone also had one of the lowest number of health workers per capita in the world. All three affected countries are, to varying degrees, still recovering from protracted conflicts and facing challenges posed by widespread poverty. The sheer scale and impact of the Ebola crisis threatens the very progress they have fought so hard to achieve.
As international development organizations, we will continue to do all we can to support the people and Governments of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, namely by providing highly-trained personnel, medical equipment, and by supporting communities, but we do not yet have the means to respond effectively to an epidemic of this scale.
We welcome the leadership shown by certain Governments so far in responding to the crisis. But a further and massive increase in financing, personnel, and expert capacity is urgently needed if we are serious about stopping the spread of Ebola. Without this, thousands more children, adults, and health workers will die unnecessarily and the long term economic impact of this crisis will be felt for years to come.
We are calling on World leaders to:
- Deploy disaster response and specialist medical teams with biohazard capacity to support containment and case management in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea
- Increase financial investment to ensure that the WHO Roadmap and UN Overview of Needs and Requirements are fully funded to ensure a scaled-up response
- Commit to investing in and strengthening the healthcare sector, in order to build back stronger, more resilient healthcare systems and communities