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UN Conference Refocuses Attention on Ebola

Ebola health workers spray disinfectant on a road near the home of a 17-year old boy that died from the Ebola virus on the outskirts of Monrovia, Liberia, Wednesday, July 1, 2015.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has convened an International Ebola Recovery Conference at U.N. Headquarters in New York.

The conference, co-organized by the three Ebola-affected countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, seeks to mobilize resources to support recovery efforts. Ebola has devastated the people and economies of the three countries.

U.N. spokesman Stepahane Dujaric said the Ebola conference is seeking to raise funds from the international community, building on the initial momentum of the response to the Ebola crisis.

“The secretary-general since the start has been mobilizing the international community, mobilizing the United Nations system to work on Ebola as we have made progress. It is important not to forget that there is whole other chapter through which we have to accompany Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone through - rebuilding; and it’s important that the international community show solidarity with the people of West Africa,” said Dujaric.

Thursday, the finance ministers from the three affected countries presented their recovery strategies. They are seeking up to $3.2 billion to rebuild their health systems and sustain their recovery from the outbreak. Dr. David Nabarro, the U.N. special envoy on Ebola, said recovery will have to start from the community level.

“We have seen that health systems have broken down in many parts because so many workers have been ill and also anxieties among the public that if they go to a health center they will be affected by the disease. Education services have also been affected, and then looking on perhaps the economic dimensions, there has been a cutback in business investment and in commerce." Nabarro said. "Recovery itself means the recovery of the people at the community level.. and the recovery of nations.”

Health experts say that Ebola will leave a mark on the three countries long after it is eliminated. The theme of the conference is “Get to Zero, Stay at Zero and Rebuild."

Nabarro said international financial support will help the countries implement their national and regional recovery strategies over a 24-month time period.

“The affected countries have come up with investment plans, they are looking to the international community for solidarity and partnerships to show some significant investments," he said. "I don't think that they will be expecting to get the full amount that they have identified as their needs, but they are expected to see a decent portion of it and I think they will get it.”

The World Health Organization puts the death toll of the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history at more than 11,000. Nabarro said that even though the majority of the affected population is in West Africa, Ebola has touched the lives of people around the world and many are anxious about the disease.

“The whole world wants to be sure that the affected countries are strong and able to recover, the whole world wants to be sure that other countries are not gonna get affected," he says.

Nabarro can’t say what percentage of the $3.2 billion will be raised, but is optimistic that there will be generous support for the early steps that he said "are so essential for confidence to recur and investment to start all over again."

The leaders of the three affected countries will address the conference Friday, followed by African Union chairman Robert Mugabe, and the secretary-general of the Mano River Union. The conference comes amidst reports of five new cases of Ebola - including one death - in Liberia, a country that had been declared Ebola free.

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