UN Security Council unanimously declares Ebola outbreak 'threat to international peace'

Israel’s ambassador Ron Prosor expressed his unequivocal support for sending aid workers and funding to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, and said that Israel has already begun deploying NGO workers.

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September 20, 2014 20:21
2 minute read.
Ebola

A UN convoy of soldiers passes a screen displaying a message on Ebola on a street in Abidjan.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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NEW YORK – The Security Council is unanimous on one thing: its commitment to ending the Ebola outbreak. In the first-ever emergency Security Council meeting called on a health crisis, all 15 council members voted to declare the disease a “threat to international peace and security.”

The council met on HIV/AIDS in 2000, in a non-emergency session.

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On Friday, the General Assembly passed, with all 193 member states in favor, its own resolution on Ebola, after holding open debate on the health crisis.

The resolution had the most co-sponsors in UN history: 134.

Israel’s Ambassador Ron Prosor addressed the Security Council on Thursday and expressed unequivocal support for sending aid workers and funding to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

“Israel is proud to be playing its part,” Prosor said, citing tikkun olam, the Jewish principle that it is the individual’s responsibility to improve the world.

Israel NGOs have deployed to Sierra Leone and Cameroon, the ambassador said, to help train doctors in how to fight the spread of the highly communicable disease.

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Stable healthcare infrastructure is the first line of defense for combating epidemics such as these, health expert say. Ensuring that patients exposed to the disease know to go to a healthcare facility immediately and not to say goodbye to family members is critical for helping stop the disease.

“This must be the moment when we enable nations to become the architects of their health systems rather than its victims,” Prosor said.

During Thursday’s meeting, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced the creation of the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response to respond to the epidemic. UNMEER”s five priorities, Ban said, are “stopping the outbreak, treating the infected, ensuring essential services, preserving stability and preventing further outbreaks.”

For weeks, officials from the World Health Organization, other UN agencies and Médecins Sans Frontières have been calling on world leaders to ramp up aid to the affected countries. WHO director-general Dr. Margaret Chan and UN Systems Coordinator for Ebola Dr. David Nabarro have spoken to the press at UN headquarters on several occasions, pleading for more resources, rather than a de facto policy of isolation.

“I estimate that to get ahead of outbreak the level of response needs to be about 20 times greater than it is at the moment,” Nabarro said on Thursday during the council meeting.

On Thursday, the Security Council finally responded to doctors’ pleas. In her testimony, the Security Council president for September, US Ambassador Samantha Power, reiterated the unprecedented speed with which this outbreak has spread. The death toll in Liberia is greater than that of the last 20 outbreaks combined, Power said.

“Instead of isolating the affected countries, we call for flooding them. Flooding them with the resources that are desperately needed to turn the tide in this fight,” the US ambassador said. “The math is simple: the sooner we act, the more lives we save.”

During an appearance on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on Thursday, former US president Bill Clinton said that the WHO, UN, Médecins Sans Frontières and US Department of Health will speak about Ebola during this year’s Clinton Global Initiative.

It will take a “Herculean effort” to isolate and stamp out the Ebola epidemic, he said.

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