President Ellen Johnson received a high-level delegation of the United Nations System at her Foreign Ministry office in Monrovia on Friday, August 22, 2014.
According to an Executive Mansion release, the delegation headed by the newly appointed UN Systems Coordinator to Liberia, Dr. David Nabarro was led to the Office of the President by the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General to Liberia, Karen Landgren.
U.N. Secretary Ban Ki-moon, last week, appointed Dr. David Nabarro as Senior UN Systems Coordinator for Ebola, prompting his immediate visit to the most affected countries of the outbreak. He will also meet key partners in the government-led effort against Ebola during his three-day visit to Liberia.
According to an Executive Mansion release, President Sirleaf welcomed Dr. Nabarro and delegation to Liberia and admitted that the country was faced with a big problem as a result of the current outbreak which has claimed many lives with scores still infected while the spread continues.
She further informed the delegation that the situation was far beyond the capacity of the country's health system and stressed that it will require concerted international effort to contain the spread of the virus not only in Liberia, but the West African sub-region where the outbreak is focused.
President Sirleaf also briefed the team about the existing measures taken by government to contain the virus and indicated that with just three treatment centers at ELWA, John F. Kennedy Memorial Center and Foya in Lofa County, caring for the sick remains a challenge.
"Our main concern is to stop the spread of the virus. The establishment of more observation and treatment centers is strongly required but stopping the prevailing wave of the spread is even more critical if we must get rid of the virus," President Sirleaf stressed.
The Liberian leader informed the UN team that government has established an Ebola Trust Fund with an initial contribution of US$5 million from the government and assured that accountability is important during and after the containment of the virus. She said timing was of essence in any intervention that will be derived from the work of the UN Systems Coordinator.
"The country's economy is threatened and we are instituting several mitigation efforts; but stopping the spread is the most important intervention that can prevent deeper economic problems. So our major concern is to get it right, overcome the challenges and contain the spread of the virus," she emphasized.
Speaking earlier, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General to Liberia, Karen Landgren told President Sirleaf that the United Nations is focused on helping to contain the virus and stressed that the world body is fully behind Liberia. "Maximum support from the United Nations System is assured as Liberia combat the spread of the deadly ebola virus disease," the SRSG indicated.
For his part, the Senior UN Systems Coordinator for Ebola, who now serves as an Envoy of the Secretary General to the affected countries, Dr. David Nabarro, said he was not a stranger to Liberia because he worked here in 2003 on a Post Conflict Program, adding that Liberia is close to his heart. He told President that the UN is committed to rolling back the spread of the Ebola virus disease in Liberia and countries affected in West Africa.
"My mandate from the Secretary General is clear. Stop the spread of the virus; help attend to the well-being of the Liberian people and help government address the economic consequence of the outbreak. Restoring the confidence of the people and that rest of the world that the virus can be beaten back is also very cardinal," Dr. Nabarro indicated
He pointed out that his work in Liberia will be in partnership with the government and other actors to quickly break the spread of the virus. He also told President Sirleaf that mobilizing and coordinating resources from the various UN bodies, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank under a platform that can enhance action and result will be priorities to his work.
Strategizing on a comprehensive plan, tracing all contacts, providing proper care, building confidence locally and internationally and getting public healthcare are quick actions that are required if the spread of the disease must be contained, he stressed. He also emphasized that the apparent lack of healthcare response from non-Ebola diseases due to the impact of the outbreak on the health system must also be urgently addressed.
Making brief intervention, the Regional Director of the World Food Program (WFP) Denise Brown indicated that food availability is a priority for the WFP. She said the WFP will ensure that donors' action is fast and aggressive and expressed concern about increase in the cost of food and other basic commodities. Madam Brown concluded that the World Food Program will make strong intervention in the area of logistics and seek to address market and household levels of food security.
Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai, House Speaker J. Alex Tyler, Senate President Pro-Tempore Gbezohngar Findley and Health & Social Welfare Minister Walter Gwenegalie also joined President Sirleaf during the meeting with Dr. Nabarro and delegation.
The visiting delegation also participated in the Government's regular Taskforce Meeting that followed the meeting with the Liberian President.