Senior UN relief official warns no room for complacency until Ebola is eliminated

NEW YORK, 8th February, 2015 (WAM) — Having recently visited the West African countries worst-affected by the current Ebola crisis, John Ging, Operations Director of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said that he returned feeling confident that the outbreak can be completely eliminated, the humanitarian situation addressed and the countries’ resilience to future outbreaks boosted.

Speaking to the UN News Centre, Ging said, “The scale, of course, of this crisis is unprecedented, with 22,000 people across three countries affected by the virus and over 9,000 dying tragically. But of course, [there is] also this dimension of fear because there is no cure although a lot of people have survived, and also how contagious it is, how rapidly it spreads.” He went on to say, that what impressed him is the degree of community mobilisation in the face of this massive tragedy. “It’s been incredible to see how communities have faced this fear and actually overcome it. There’s been very impressive international engagement, heroic international staff in so many international non-governmental organisations (NGOs), also public servants who have gone out there, medical workers, and military being deployed, by the United States and the United Kingdom in particular. All on the front line.” He continued, “This endeavour has been a team effort – locally, nationally and internationally. And thankfully, now, the crisis has been turned from Ebola having the initiative and being out of control to the international and national endeavour having the initiative and working towards the elimination of the crisis.” About the wider humanitarian situation in the affected countries, John Ging said, “The first impact of course is on the families themselves [as] most of the people who’ve lost their lives are in the category of being the breadwinner for families. Now, those families are very vulnerable because they have lost their source of income. We also have a situation where survivors – the orphans – some 10,000 children, have lost one or both parents. Also, the delivery of basic public services in healthcare and education and other services have basically been overrun by the consequences of this crisis.

Answering a query about OCHA’s focus, Ging said, “OCHA’s focus is, as it is everywhere, [to] support humanitarian organisations in three principle functions. One is on the information side. We are facilitating the information because our partners need to know what the situation is who’s doing what [and] where, to avoid overlap and duplication. And also to generate effective aocacy around the response that is needed. The second thing we do is we facilitate operational coordination, bringing people together so again, that we can help support the best focused [response] in efficiency and effectiveness.” He concluded, “And finally, in humanitarian financing – the fundraising dimension to all this. OCHA manages the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), also launches the global appeals for our humanitarian partners and we see that as something that is going to be very important moving forward – that we continue to be able to generate the international engagement…the generosity of our Member States – to help these people who have been so devastated by this crisis to recover. And it is possible in the short-term to actually support a recovery here, so it’s an investment that’s worth making. The people [in the affected region] most definitely deserve our support.”