United Nations Calls Ebola a ‘Threat to International Peace and Security’
UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. Security Council called the Ebola outbreak in Africa “a threat to international peace and security” Thursday, and urged the world to provide health experts, field hospitals and medical supplies to combat the rapidly accelerating and deadly virus.
A resolution adopted unanimously by the U.N.’s most powerful body at an emergency meeting with an unprecedented 130 countries as co-sponsors reflected the rising global concern at the swiftly spreading Ebola outbreak in West Africa. It marked only the second time that the Security Council has addressed a public health emergency, the first being the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
U.N. health chief Dr. Margaret Chan said the “deadly and dreaded Ebola virus got ahead of us,” and it was now time to urgently catch up. “This is likely the greatest peacetime challenge that the United Nations and its agencies have ever faced,” she said.
Chan, who is also the World Health Organization director-general, said “none of us experienced in containing outbreaks has ever seen, in our lifetimes, an emergency on this scale, with this degree of suffering and with this magnitude of cascading consequences.”
In the hardest-hit countries — Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone — “an exponentially rising caseload threatens to push governments to the brink of state failure,” Chan said.
According to the latest WHO figures, 5,300 people are believed to have contracted Ebola, and more than 2,600 have died — the majority in Liberia.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the number of Ebola cases is doubling every three weeks, and called for a 20-fold increase in aid totaling almost $1 billion to tackle the crisis over the next six months.
The U.N. chief said the largest outbreak of Ebola in history “demands the attention of the world” and “unprecedented” action.
The United Nations is leading the global response to contain and eradicate Ebola, and Ban announced that he is establishing a U.N. emergency mission to tackle the spiraling challenge.
He thanked U.S. President Barack Obama for sending 3,000 troops to provide expertise in logistics, training and engineering. Ban also read the names of about 20 other countries that have responded with contributions, and urged all nations coming to the U.N. General Assembly ministerial meeting next week to follow suit.
The Security Council encouraged the governments of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea to accelerate the rapid diagnosis and isolation of suspected Ebola cases, and launch public-education campaigns about the virus. It also encouraged the three governments “to continue efforts to resolve and mitigate the wider political, security and humanitarian dimensions of the Ebola outbreak.”
The resolution addresses the “detrimental effect” of the isolation of the affected countries — all poor and emerging from conflict in West Africa — especially on their economies. It calls for the lifting of travel and border restrictions imposed as a result of the Ebola outbreak, a resumption of shipping and air service to the affected countries, and stepped-up efforts to deliver health workers and supplies.
Jackson Naimah, a team leader for Doctors Without Borders at a treatment center in the Liberian capital Monrovia, told the council by videoconference that there aren’t enough centers and beds, and people “are sitting at the gates of our centers, literally begging for their lives” and “are dying at our front door.”
“They rightly feel alone, neglected, denied — left to die a horrible, undignified death,” the Liberian health expert said. “We are failing the sick because there is not enough help on the ground.”
“If the international community does not stand up, we will be wiped out,” Naimah warned.