Global Health

UN Ambassador Says the World Needs a “Wake-Up Call” on Ebola Crisis

Samantha Power, US Ambassador to the United Nations, says the international community needs a “wake-up call” in the case of the current Ebola outbreak crisis.

via US Mission Geneva
via US Mission Geneva

“This should be a wake-up call for the international community,” Power said. “It’s the worst Ebola epidemic we’ve seen in history. And the good news, though, is that we know how to stop it. But the resources the international community has put toward this to this point are woefully insufficient.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the current Ebola outbreak an international public health emergency. Experts estimate the outbreak could infect as many as 20,000 people, and it has currently killed approximately 2,500 people – a disproportionate percentage of whom are women. UNICEF estimates women make up 55 to 60 percent of Ebola deaths in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

Recently, health teams in Liberia reported 75 percent of those who have been infected or who have died from Ebola have been women. This is partially because women in the region are given the responsibility of caretaker, are often the ones who care for the children and men who are infected, and are often responsible for preparing funerals. Women also make up a large portion of hospital cleaners, also increasing their risk of exposure.

“Women constitute a large section of the health workers and are on the frontlines of this crisis,” Sierra Leone’s First Lady Sia Nyama Koroma told The Washington Post.

UN Women urged the international community to design communication and outreach services to target women in a recent statement. “Any Ebola response should address the needs of women and harness their leadership roles as caregivers and community leaders,” it read. “The international community, governments and other stakeholders must focus on women as key agents of change and social mobilizers with a central role to play in sharing knowledge, raising awareness and enhancing care.”

President Obama announced this week that the US will be sending military personnel, health care workers, medical supplies, and community care kits, to respond to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The US will also build additional treatment centers. A senior official said the US could give more then $1 billion in efforts if it needs – but the US cannot respond alone.

“This is a global threat, and it demands a truly global response,” Obama said. “International organizations just have to move faster than they have up until this point. More nations need to contribute experienced personnel, supplies and funding that’s needed, and they need to deliver on what they pledge quickly.”

President Obama indicated that together with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, he would continue to call on the international community to join the effort. The US is chairing an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council this week.

Media Resources: The Hill 9/18/2014; The White House 9/16/14; UN Women 9/2/2014; The Huffington Post 8/29/2014; The Washington Post 8/14/2014

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