The United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) is establishing an office in Mali to help support the West African country’s ongoing efforts to combat and contain the Ebola virus, according to Ari Gaitanis, head of the public information unit at the U.N.
Officials say when established, the U.N. Office will reinforce Mali’s operational response by strengthening the West African nation’s level of preparedness and assisting with cross-border coordination of Ebola efforts between Malian and Guinean authorities.
Gaitanis said the decision to establish an office in Mali came after U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon held a conversation with Mali’s President, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta.
“The secretary-general announced the World Health Organization’s top official in the country to head the UNMEER office in Mali,” said Gaitanis. “We are also evaluating and studying what kind of presence we need, how many staff, what kind of resources required, and that’s all in motion from the day it was announced.”
This also followed a visit to Mali by Anthony Banbury, the secretary-general's special representative and head of UNMEER who met both local and international partners involved in response to combat Ebola.
“He met the president of Mali and they discussed the possibility of UNMEER, the U.N. mission, having some sort of presence in the country to help support the country’s Ebola response effort,” said Gaitanis.
The World Health Organization on Friday released the latest update on the death toll in the Ebola epidemic, which it said has risen to 5,459 out of 15,351 cases identified in eight countries by the end of November 18.
Countries in West African currently battling the Ebola outbreak include Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Mali, recently recorded its cases, which officials say are small in number compared to the outbreak of the disease in neighboring countries.
Gaitanis said lessons learned from the countries battling to contain the disease could go a long way in helping Mali to prevent an outbreak.
“UNMEER has lessons learned of course and has experience already in this sort of crisis response. And the fact is that Mali now has a small number of cases compared to others and this means that there is a chance of ending it quickly before it becomes a true crisis, the way it has become in other countries,” said Gaitanis.