Urging against complacency in the fight against Ebola, the incoming head of the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) said this week that getting to zero cases is the only way to ensure the world is safe from the deadly virus .
Speaking with UNMEER staff at a town hall meeting in Accra, Ghana, the newly appointed Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, lauded the mission’s recent achievements but also noted major challenges in battling the deadly outbreak.
“This is a global crisis. We definitely have a difficult time ahead of us, but we can achieve it,” said Ould Cheikh Ahmed, who will be taking over for Mr. Anthony Banbury. “We have no plan B, we have to get rid of this virus. This is within our reach, but we should not be complacent.”
“We need to keep going until we don’t have even one case, because even one case is too many,” he added. “The work ahead remains very hard but we really have no other choice.”
According to the latest figures from the World Health Organization (WHO), a total of 21,086 people have been infected with Ebola, of whom 8,289 have died. The three hardest-hit countries — Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone — account for nearly all of the cases and deaths, though isolated clusters have been confirmed in Nigeria, Mali, and Senegal.
Outgoing Head Anthony Banbury welcomed Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, saying, “Even while we face a lot of hard work in the days, weeks and months ahead, it’s important to pause and think back to where we were when we started. There were predictions that there would be 1.4 million cases by now.”
Ould Cheikh Ahmed will be visiting Liberia and Sierra Leone next week, then Guinea shortly after, to reinforce UNMEER’s strategic priorities and see first-hand the Ebola response. He will be accompanied by UN Special Envoy on Ebola, Dr. David Nabarro.
According to UNMEER, the three affected countries now have sufficient capacity to isolate and treat 100 percent of confirmed Ebola patients and enough burial teams to ensure safe and dignified burials for 100 percent of all deaths due to Ebola. However, the WHO conceded this week that they had fallen short of their Jan. 1 target of isolating all infected patients and conducting all burials in a safe manner.
Before his new appointment, Ould Cheikh Ahmed served as Deputy Special Representative and Deputy Head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL).