GENEVA - The United Nations has drawn up new measures to strengthen its response to the Ebola epidemic in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and put an end to the spread of this deadly virus, which already has claimed more than 1200 lives.
The plan is top-heavy with senior officials who will oversee and coordinate U.N. and international efforts to come to grips with this virulent disease. The Ebola epidemic was declared 10 months ago in conflict-ridden North Kivu and Ituri provinces in eastern DRC.
Since then, growing insecurity and community mistrust have hampered efforts to contain the virus, heightening the risk of the disease spreading to neighboring countries.
To deal with this increasingly complex situation, World Health Organization spokesman Tarik Jasarevic says the U.N., in close cooperation with the DRC government and partners, is strengthening its political engagement, bolstering preparedness plans and increasing support for humanitarian coordination.
“WHO is adapting public health response strategies to identify and treat people as quickly as possible, expanding vaccination to reach and protect more people; and redoubling work to end transmission in health facilities," said Jasarevic. "The United Nations Secretary-General has established a strengthened coordination and support mechanism in the epicenter of the outbreak, Butembo.”
To head this effort, the U.N. chief has appointed two high-ranking experienced officials. David Gressly, newly appointed as U.N. Emergency Ebola Response Coordinator will oversee the coordination of international support for the Ebola response.
He will work closely with WHO on health operations and with Assistant Director-General for Emergency Response, Ibrahima Soce Fall. He has been leading WHO’s Ebola response in DRC from Butembo since mid-March.
Fall, whose responsibilities will be expanded, praises the new approach to the Ebola crisis. He says it will provide better security for patients and health workers and wider access to an effective Ebola vaccine. He says the plan also will present a more humane face to the response, which should help allay community suspicion.