UN Chief Ban Ki-Moon to Visit African Nations Worst Hit by Ebola

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will visit the African countries suffering the most from the Ebola outbreak to express his support and press for continued international response until the epidemic ends.

Ban told reporters today that he’ll leave New York tonight for Accra, Ghana, where the emergency UN mission on Ebola is based. He’ll be joined by Margaret Chan, World Health Organization chief, David Nabarro, his special envoy on Ebola, and Tony Banbury, head of the UN mission on Ebola, on visits to Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia and Mali.

Two months ago, Ban shelved the idea of visiting the West African nations to avoid disrupting response efforts. Since then, the UN has reported some progress in controlling the disease and allocating resources to the afflicted nations.

“I want to see the response for myself, and show my solidarity with those affected and urge even greater global action,” Ban said in his end-of-year press conference at UN headquarters in New York.

“The Ebola response strategy is working, and we are beginning to see improvements,” he added. “But now is not the time to ease up on our efforts. As long as there is one case of Ebola, the risk remains.”

About 18,460 cases were diagnosed and 6,840 deaths reported since the disease outbreak was identified nine months ago, according to WHO data. While Ebola spread is slowed in Liberia, the virus is raging in parts of Guinea and Sierra Leone, which now has the highest total number of reported cases at 7,897.

Frustration

The Security Council last week agreed to suspend the drawdown of the UN peacekeeping mission in Liberia and extend its mandate to facilitate combating Ebola.

Ban responded to the Ebola surge by mobilizing the UN’s first system-wide emergency health mission in September to coordinate the international response to the crisis. He has expressed frustration to Chan in private about how the WHO had allowed the outbreak to happen, while acknowledging the agency’s yearly funding cuts and limited authority, according to two senior UN officials who asked not to be named commenting on conversations behind closed doors.

UN diplomats said they are discussing with Ban’s office how to reform the WHO to make sure it is able to effectively raise the alarm in the event of another health crisis, on the basis of the organization’s internal review.

Ban, who is 70 years old, said he will meet the leaders of all five countries and visit Ebola treatment centers. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and and Prevention requires all travelers returning from Ebola-stricken nations to monitor their temperatures for 21 days.

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