UN Briefing Session on the Ebola Outbreak November 12, 2014

NabarroOn Thursday November 12 2014, a meeting was held at United Nations (UN) Headquarters in New York to discuss the current status of the Ebola outbreak, in the presence of Dr. David Nabarro, UN system Senior Coordinator for the response to Ebola Virus Disease. GFDD staff was in attendance to report on the findings.

Moderating the discussion, Mr. Ramu Damodaran, Deputy Director for Partnerships and Public Engagement in the United Nations Department of Public Information’s Outreach Division introduced Dr. Nabarro explaining that he was appointed to his current functions by the UN Secretary General effective August 11, 2014.

Key Facts:

  • Strong emotional ties: Dr. Nabarro stressed that the Ebola crisis has clearly become a global issue with 3 billion people out of the 7 billion people on this planet finding themselves emotionally connected to this disease;
  • Large civil society movement: 2 to 3 million people are involved with civil society groups in the fight against ebola.

Conditions for transmission of the disease:

ebola-virus-back-again134Dr. Nabarro stressed that, although the Ebola virus is infectious, provided proper precautions are adopted, then infection does not take place.

What we know is that the virus moves from one person to another through body fluids. That means through, for example, vomit or faeces or perhaps even saliva. If you can protect yourself from contact with the body fluids of an infected person, you will not get infected. The disease can therefore only be transmitted through close physical contact (i.e. less than 1 meter apart).

Regions most affected by the disease:

Dr. Nabarro confirmed that the first country to be affected was Guinea, having had waves of infection. Today the disease is particularly prevalent in certain regions of two other countries – Liberia and Sierra Leone, which are still considered difficult hotspots.

Within the Dominican Republic:

To date no case or Ebola have been reported in the Dominican Republic.

The country has joined other Caribbean countries and issued a travel ban restricting travelers from West African nations dealing with Ebola outbreaks. The ban applies to travelers in those countries in the past 30 days, according to Dominican Health Minister Altagracia Guzman.

Fear as an amplifying factor:

Stressing the importance of this outbreak, Dr. Nabarro explained that 80% of the economic and social consequences of the outbreak are linked to fears about it, mostly amplified by the media.

Options to combat the disease:

Ebola SprayThe UN’s response has been to set up a dedicated mission to combat the disease called the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER – http://www.un.org/ebolaresponse/mission.shtml) which aims to respond to the immediate needs related to the fight against Ebola, by working with governments, private sector organizations and civil society to ensure vital services, such as food supplies are sent out from capitals to regions affected by the disease.

The UN Secretary-General has also partnered with the President of the World Bank to ensure that both organizations join efforts and create one simplified process for combatting the disease.

Dr. Nabarro also stressed that contact tracing (of Ebola stricken individuals) and safe burial sites were key to the medical response on the ground in order to prevent the escalation of the outbreak.

liberia-ebolaFurthermore, he explained that in addition to the medical response translated through the establishment of new UN treatment centers, he emphasized the importance for the international community to show solidarity to healthy people travelling from Ebola stricken regions and not discriminate them because of fear of the disease.

Post recovery efforts:

Dr. Nabarro pointed out that the outbreak was “more than just a health issue”, as it is “deeply affecting societies, economies and governments”. He pointed out that the UN is working closely with UNICEF to ensure that orphaned children are taken care of and that the international community begins to actively plan for the economic recovery of affected countries.

Some positive news:

Dr. Nabarro confirmed that a slowing of the outbreak had been observed in certain regions such as Nigeria and Guinea, however he stressed that there was a clear “need to maintain the effort to the point that transmission is stopped and countries are on the way back to recovery”.

He concluded his statement by stressing that health care matter for productivity, as source of security but also as a source of investment.

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