Heritage (Monrovia)

1 August 2014

Liberia: SRSG Welcomes Launch of Govt's Plan for Accelereated Response to Ebola

MONROVIA - The Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General (SRSG) for Liberia, Karin Landgren, on July 31, 2014 welcomed the Government of Liberia's strategic plan for an accelerated response to the Ebola epidemic.

"The comprehensive response plan launched yesterday evening by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is critical to the fight against Ebola in Liberia," she said. "With the World Health Organization at the forefront, the UN family in Liberia will continue to devote considerable resources towards response and prevention in line with the Government-led effort."

The spread of the disease in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone has been unprecedented in scope and scale. More than 1,200 cases of confirmed, probable or suspected Ebola have been recorded in the three countries and well over half of the people infected have died. The numbers of new cases and deaths continue to accelerate.

In Liberia, an average of almost 14 new cases a day were recorded in the last week of July, bringing the total number of confirmed, suspected and probable cases to over 350 in seven of the country's 15 counties. "In the nine weeks since a second wave of Ebola hit Liberia in late May, authorities have recorded 170 deaths due to confirmed or probable Ebola," the SRSG said. "There are likely many other cases that go unreported."

The Government's comprehensive plan requires $20.9 million so that the authorities, working with the UN, NGOs and other partners, can continue scaling up the response, which includes case management, laboratory testing, infection control, psychosocial support and massive outreach to educate the public and change behaviors that spread the disease.

"Further generous funding is needed to roll back the disease, which is overwhelming isolation centers and has too frequently claimed the lives of courageous healthcare workers at the forefront of the response to Ebola," Landgren said. In Liberia, 45 health workers have been infected.

Enhanced efforts to ensure healthcare workers' safety are among several measures taken by the Government to combat the disease. On 27 July, the Government announced the closure of most border crossings and Ebola controls at the major open border points, restrictions on public gatherings, and standing orders for security forces to enforce the new measures. Other measures include the closure of all schools, internal movement restrictions and 30-day compulsory leave for all non-essential Government employees.

"I will remain deeply engaged in securing the best possible UN support to this unpredictable situation which has placed a massive burden on Liberia's limited capacity to respond," Landgren said. "The UN has helped to set up isolation units to manage cases. We provide support for surveillance and contact tracing, medical expertise, and material resources like vehicles, chlorine, and Ebola kits.

Thirty-five UN staff are providing logistical support to the response. We are implementing massive outreach campaigns and have made programming on prevention and response a priority for UNMIL Radio, which is the only station that reaches most of Liberia."

The UN Resident Coordinator continues to coordinate and report on the efforts of UN agencies and international NGOs, many of which have been at the frontline of the epidemic.

UNMIL civilian personnel will continue to support the authorities in the implementation of the plan, including local authorities through the mission's field offices across Liberia.

"UNMIL Police and Force [the military component of the mission] will also support the first-instance security responders, the Liberia National Police, when necessary to respond to specific violent incidents, such as we have seen in Foya and Voinjama districts in Lofa County in recent days," Landgren said.

"UN personnel are also taking every precaution to protect themselves in order to keep working for continued stability and development in Liberia and the region."

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