UNDP steps up Ebola fight in Liberia as UN issues programme to tackle national emergency

11 Aug 2014

imageIn Monrovia, a Ministry of Health employee sprays the sole of a colleague’s shoes at an Ebola Isolation ClinicPhoto: UNMIL/Staton Winter

USD 33 million are needed to help UN agencies to tackle the disease

Issuing a comprehensive joint programme, the United Nations system in Liberia today said up to USD 33 million  were needed to support Liberia’s national response to the Ebola disease.

The appeal aims to cover a vast number of activities, including: tracking and treating victims, provision of food and other necessities to patients, their families and affected communities; boosting health and sanitation in refugee camps; community outreach and education; and coordinating the activities of all partners involved.

These interventions will be expected to support the national plan against Ebola and the World Health Organization (WHO)’s sub-regional strategy.

“We are on the ground with the rest of the UN system and providing full backing to Liberia’s Ebola task force. This is an unprecedented threat to the country that requires a swift and massive response,” said Antonio Vigilante, the UNDP Resident Representative and UN Resident Coordinator in Monrovia, who is coordinating the UN’s response to the disease.

“We count on the international community’s support to make sure the epidemic is contained and any other outbreaks are prevented,” he added.

On August 6, Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf declared a 90-day State of Emergency, proclaiming a number of emergency measures including imposing quarantines on the worst-affected communities to contain the epidemic. Liberia is the country where the death toll from the disease is rising the fastest.

Liberia has established a national task force, led by the President, to spearhead the response, supported by the United Nations and other partners. The World Health Organization (WHO) is coordinating the medical response, including containment, tracking and treatment of the disease, support on health policies, training and awareness. The UN Population Fund and UNICEF are working on community outreach and mobilization to help contain the disease. In addition, many UN agencies and UNMIL have provided supplies, logistical and technical support to national authorities.

UNDP has already contributed USD 150,000 to support surveillance and case management, early warning activities, training health teams and transporting samples from suspected outbreak sites to laboratories. Under the auspices of a decentralization project supported by the European Union, UNDP also assigned 4x4 vehicles to the Government to be used immediately in Ebola response efforts.  

In addition, UNDP is in the process of mobilizing more funding in support of the national response plan. This includes over USD 600,000 of its own resources and plans to mobilize up to 2 million dollars from Japan's supplementary funding to help scale up its campaign by deploying more health and community outreach personnel in the counties that are affected, and where new Ebola infections continue to be recorded.

Curbing the spread of Ebola requires controlling border crossings, intensifying screening and enforcing  stringent health measures in the most affected communities, says UNDP, adding that fear and grief have resulted in a number of security incidents in the affected areas.

Denial, lack of trust between communities and central authorities and limited understanding of the nature of the epidemic are some of the impediments for effective disease containment.

At the sub-regional level, UNDP will be using its security sector reform programme to strengthen Ebola emergency coordination mechanisms and to help mobilize police and immigration personnel, strengthening their capacity to enforce border control measures.

“Over the long-term, the crisis is likely to cause an enormous cost for the country. It may have economic, social, political and security repercussions, while holding up existing development programmes, and delaying fundamental reforms. But it can also leave behind valuable lessons for future reduction of vulnerabilities, increased resilience and preparedness,” said Mr. Vigilante.

A team of UNDP and UNMIL experts analyzes the longer term impact of the Ebola crisis, drawing possible scenarios which will allow for the development of an efficient early warning system. Moving forward, this analysis will serve as basis for advice to the government and the international community on possible prevention or mitigation measures.