UNITED NATIONS, United States (AFP) – The head of the UN Ebola mission warned Friday that the world was “far, far away” from beating back the outbreak and said a huge increase in aid was still needed to fight Ebola on the ground in Africa.
“There is a long battle ahead of us,” Anthony Banbury told the UN Security Council which met two months after it declared the outbreak a threat to world security.
Fighting the epidemic “is going to require a tremendous increase in resources on the ground, in a dispersed geographic area,” said Banbury, head of the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) by video conference.
While recognising some progress, Banbury said international efforts had yet to gain the upper hand on the epidemic, with a new outbreak in Mali, where UNMEER will set up operations.
“We are far, far away from ending this crisis,” he declared.
Recent data has shown a decline in cases in Liberia, the worst-hit country, and Guinea, but last week, 533 new cases were reported in Sierra Leone – the highest weekly tally since the outbreak began in that country.
“The fight is not only ongoing, but it is still tilting in Ebola’s favour,” warned US Ambassador to the Untied Nations Samantha Power.
“The gains to date could easily be reversed,” warned Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who chaired the meeting on Ebola.
The United Nations has been struggling to mobilise financial pledges and resources – medical equipment, doctors, nurses, health workers – to come to the aid of Ebola-hit countries, nearly one year after the outbreak.
Ebola and the focus has shifted to providing aid to rural areas where the virus has spread.
The council adopted a statement calling on Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to “accelerate efforts to scale up UNMEER’s presence and activities” in rural areas.
It also drew a list of resources needed from member-states: mobile laboratories, field hospitals, trained personnel, therapies, vaccines, diagnostics and personal protective equipment.