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At World Economic Forum - Davos: UN launches $1 billion appeal for global Ebola respons

INTERNATIONAL – The United Nations on Wednesday, January 21 appealed for US$1 billion needed for the first six months of 2015 to sustain the momentum to stamp out Ebola in West Africa, where ‘the epidemic has started to turn’ in all three of the worst-hit countries – Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

“We’re beginning to see an overall decline in number of new cases each week,” Dr. David Nabarro, the UN Special Envoy on Ebola, told anews conferencein Davos, Switzerland, at the 2015 World Economic Forum, where global leaders from across business, Government, international organizations, academia and civil society are gathered for strategic dialogues on events and trends shaping the world.

Valerie Amos, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, also welcomed the “early signs of reduction of Ebola in all three countries” but noted the need to remain vigilant.

And as the Secretary-General of the United Nations [Ban Ki-moon] said yesterday, complacency would be our worst enemy,” Ms. Amos, who is also the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs told reporters.

Theappealwas launched by Ms. Amos and Dr. Nabarro, who are in Davos where there are some 20 scheduled events at the World Economic Forum devoted to the global fight against the Ebola epidemic.

“This is an appeal for funds to support the efforts of the national governments of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone as they identify and treat people affected by Ebola, ensure a rapid end to the outbreak, re-establish essential social services and improve people’s food and nutrition security,” according to the appeal. “[It] includes funds needed for enabling nearby countries to reduce their people’s risk of Ebola infection.”

Explaining the background to the revised $1 billion funding appeal from January to June 2015, the UN notes that ‘some of the funding has already been raised by an earlier appeal.’

In October 2014, it said, the total financial needs were estimated to be to $1.5 billion through to March 2015. By the end of 2014, $1.3 billion had been raised against this appeal. Approximately $800 million has been spent leaving $500 million available for use now in 2015.

Meanwhile in Geneva today, thefourth meetingof the Emergency Committee convened by the Director-General of the UN World Health Organization (WHO) met and recommended maintaining “robust” exit screening in the three affected countries, which is ‘critical for minimizing the risk of exportation of Ebola cases.’

But the Committee reaffirmed the need to avoid unnecessary interference with international travel and trade, noting that more than 40 countries have implemented additional measures, such as quarantine of returning travellers and refusal of entry.

“Such measures are impeding the recruitment and return of international responders,” said WHO. “They also have harmful effects on local populations by increasing stigma and isolation, and by disrupting livelihoods and economies.”

“The Committee concluded that the primary emphasis must continue to be on ‘getting to zero’ Ebola cases, by stopping the transmission of Ebola within the three most affected countries,” said the agency, adding: “This action is the most important step for preventing international spread. Complacency is the biggest risk to not getting to zero cases. Continued vigilance is essential.”

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Genocide occurs when ‘warning signs’ ignored, action not taken

INTERNATIONAL – During a commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camp on Wednesday, January 21, United Nations Deputy-Secretary-General Jan Eliasson called for reflection on how better to prevent horrific crimes witnessed during the Holocaust and other genocides.

“It is important that we examine why we continue to fail to prevent mass atrocities, despite lessons learned, despite knowledge of causes and drivers and despite our assurances of ‘never again,’” hesaid. “Genocide can only happen when we ignore the warning signs – and are unwilling to take action.”

The event, held at UN Headquarters in New York and organized by the Permanent Mission of Poland to the UN and chaired by Boguslaw Winid, preceded the annualInternational Day of Commemoration of the Victims of the Holocaust.

The permanent representatives to the UN of the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, Rwanda, Israel and Germany were among those who spoke, with the Secretary-General’s Special Advisor on Genocide, Adama Dieng, Philippe Bolopion of Human Rights Watch and Robert Kostro, who is Director of the Museum of Polish History.

Mr. Eliasson said the event offered a chance to consider what must be done differently to protect people and build societies ‘where tolerance trumps hatred,’ and stressed that excuses for turning a blind eye were disappearing, with pervasive instant communication and deepening international connections, as well as the knowledge that genocide results from creeping processes unfolding over time and of conditions that allow them to thrive.

“Our challenge is to stop these processes and their enabling conditions at an early stage,” Mr. Eliasson said, adding that armed conflicts often create environments right for mass atrocities but stressing that genocide also resulted from divisions fostered in peace time.

The idea that the international community must stand ready to protect populations from genocide and other atrocity crimes was reinforced by adoption of the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ principle at the 2005 World Summit and more needed to be done to operationalize that commitment.

“We need political will, and political courage, to move forward,” he said, pointing out that the UN was engaged in a process of bolstering its capacity to act early through the Secretary-General’s Human Rights Up Front initiative, which promoted better coordination and decision-making.

The Director of the Memorial and State Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau, Piotr Cywinski, delivered the keynote address to the meeting, noting that it was probably one of the last anniversaries that would give the chance to host survivors. Mr. Cywinski said it was an important moment to look to the future and form a vision for the memory of the Holocaust.

Auschwitz today served as ‘testimony, symbol, and a place for education,’ he said, describing the camp’s history and significance, and the Museum’s efforts to reach out to a younger generation.

Mr. Cywinski said protection of the site’s authenticity for younger, less connected audiences was an essential part of his duties and he was working hard to fuse the words of remaining survivors with the physical site where the killing took place.

The representative of Rwanda described the overlap between the events of 70 years ago and of 20 years ago in his own country, asking, in the context of the ‘never again’ pledge made after the Holocaust, why another genocide was allowed to happen.

The year 2015 marked 70 years since the Holocaust, he said but was also 70 years since the creation of institutions that were designed to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war. The question was whether those institutions were strong enough to prevent atrocities in the future and he underlined the importance of political will and implementation of decisions and principles like the Responsibility to Protect.

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International Monetary Fund downgrades global growth forecast, despite cheaper oil

SINT MAARTEN/INTERNATIONAL – Despite a sharp decline in oil prices, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in its latest economic outlook on Tuesday, January 20 lowered growth expectations for this year and the next – 2016 - for most countries due to slowdown in investment, and urged governments and central banks to pursue economic stimulation policies and structural reforms to boost growth.

The Parliament of country Sint Maarten will be debating the national draft 2015 budget starting Thursday, January 22. The budget presented by the Prime Minister Hon. Marcel Gumbs and his Cabinet is Naf.445.000.000 (US$247 million) with investments and capital goods set at Naf.111.031.451 (US$61 million).

Sint Maarten’s budget is has to also receive the greenlight from the College of Financial Supervision (CFT), an entity that was established in 2010 when the former Netherlands Antilles was dismantled in order for Sint Maarten to achieve country status within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Sint Maarten is not allowed to have a budget deficit.

The Central Bank of Curacao and Sint Maarten (CBCS) has projected economic growth for 2015 for Sint Maarten at 1.9 per cent.  In the meantime the IMF has lowered its projections for growth for the next two-years (2015 and 2016), and has called on governments and central banks to pursue economic stimulation policies.

The Sint Maarten economy grew in 2014 by 1.7 per cent and for 2013 it was only 0.9 per cent.  

The Government of Sint Maarten and the CFT will be at loggerheads in 2015 should the government pursue recommendations as promoted by the IMF with respect to economic stimulation of the economy.

According to itsWorld Economic Outlook (WEO) update, the IMF now expects growth of 3.5 per cent this year, compared with the previous estimate of 3.8 per cent which it made in October. The growth forecast for 2016 has also been cut, to 3.7 per cent. It also showed increased growth prospects for the United States.

In addition, the Outlook, released on the eve of the annual Davos World Economic Forum, found increasing divergence between the United States, on the one hand, and the euro area and Japan, on the other.

For 2015, the U.S. economic growth has been revised up to 3.6 per cent, largely due to more robust private domestic demand. But the euro area has been revised down 1.1 per cent, due mostly to weaker investment prospects and despite the support from lower oil prices, further monetary policy easing, a more neutral fiscal policy stance, and the recent euro depreciation.

“In the medium run, the future [in Europe] doesn’t look as bright. Investment is weak and so, for most countries, we’re revising down, not much, but down. Now, this being said, I think we may be a bit pessimistic about the effects of the price of oil so in the jargon of economists there’s an upside risk, in which, in fact, the price of oil will help more and things will turn out better, but we can’t count on it,”said Olivier Blanchard, IMF’s chief economist.

In Japan, where the economy fell into technical recession in the third quarter of 2014, growth has been revised down as well. However, policy responses, together with the oil price boost and yen depreciation, are expected to strengthen growth this year and the next.

In emerging markets and developing economies, growth is projected to remain broadly stable at 4.3 per cent in 2015 and to increase to 4.7 percent in 2016 – a weaker pace than forecast last October.

In China, where investment growth has slowed, the forecast has been marked down to below 7 per cent. “The policy makers in China have decided to reduce some of the dangers that they were facing on housing, on shadow banking, are taking the right measures. They are also trying to reorient growth from investment to consumption so all this is desirable but it’s leading to a lower growth rate,” Mr. Blanchard explained.

“Now, this is having an effect on the rest of the world through trade so Asian countries around China will have other things equal, lower growth, because they will be exporting less. We think the effect is relatively small. If you wanted a number, one percent less growth in China leads to about .3 per cent less growth in Asia,” he added.

The sharpest decline of all is for Russia, whose economic outlook is much weaker, with growth forecast at – 3.0 per cent for 2015, as a result of the economic impact of sharply lower oil prices and increased geopolitical tensions.

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ILO Study predicts rising global unemployment due to slower growth, inequality, turbulence

INTERNATIONAL – An extra 10 million people worldwide are likely to be unemployed by 2019, a new United Nations report has said on Tuesday, January 20, pointing to slower growth, widening inequalities and economic turbulence as reasons behind the trend.

According to theWorld Employment and Social Outlook – Trends 2015(WESO) report, released today by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the next four years will see the total number of people out of work worldwide climb from the current 201 million to 212 million.

“More than 61 million jobs have been lost since the start of the global crisis in 2008,” said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder. “This means the jobs crisis is far from over so there is no place for complacency.”

Young workers aged 15-24 are particularly hit by the crisis, with a global youth unemployment rate of almost 13 per cent in 2014 and a further increase expected in coming years. By contrast, older workers have fared relatively well since the start of the global financial crisis in 2008.

“The good news is that the number of workers in vulnerable jobs and working poverty has fallen around the globe. However, it is still not acceptable that almost half of the world's workers lack access to basic necessities and decent work,” Ryder said. “The situation is even worse for women.”

Inequality is rising and is predicted to continue doing so, according to the report, with the world's richest 10 per cent earning 30 to 40 per cent of total income and the poorest 10 per cent earn between just two and seven per cent. The situation creates uncertainty for enterprise investment and has slowed the rebound from the financial crisis.

“If low wages lead people to consume less, and investment remains subdued, this obviously has a negative impact on growth. Income inequality in some advanced economies now approach levels observed among emerging economies. By contrast, the emerging economies made some progress in reducing their high levels of inequality,” said the ILO head.

The inequality trends have also undermined trust in Governments, keeping the risk of social unrest high, particularly in countries where unemployment is highest or rising quickest. Social unrest has shot up since the beginning of the financial crisis in 2008, with only developed economies and countries in South-East Asia and the Pacific region seeing a reduction – though even there, levels are significantly above historical averages.

Unemployment growth is fuelled in part by structural factors, like major shifts in demand for skills. Globally, there is a shorter supply of routine middle-skilled jobs, like bookkeepers and clerical workers, while availability of both low-skilled, non-routine jobs, such as security personnel, and high-skilled non-routine cognitive jobs, such as lawyers and software engineers has increased.

“The trends we see are worrying but we can improve the overall economic picture if we tackle underlying weaknesses, in particular the continued lack of aggregate demand, stagnation in the Eurozone, uncertain prospects for productive investment, especially among small enterprises, and mounting inequality,” said Ryder.

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World health organization urges greater government action against non-communicable diseases

INTERNATIONAL – The international community has an opportunity to reverse the global epidemic of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and prevent the grim annual toll of 16 million people who die of heart and lung diseases, strokes, cancer and diabetes before the age of 70, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) revealed on January 19.

Speaking at the launch of the WHO’sGlobal status report on non-communicable diseases 2014, the agency’s Director-General, Dr. Margaret Chan, announced that by investing anywhere from $1 to $3 per person per year, countries could dramatically reduce illness and death from NCDs.

“In 2015, every country needs to set national targets and implement cost-effective actions. If they do not,” Dr. Chansaid, “millions of lives will continue to be lost too soon.”

According to the report, nearly half of premature NCD deaths are preventable. In fact, 16 million of the 38 million lives lost to NCDs, or 42 per cent, could be saved through ramped up government policies targeting tobacco use, the harmful use of alcohol, unhealthy diets and physical inactivity, and providing universal health care.

In Brazil, the report notes by example, the NCD mortality rate is dropping 1.8 per cent per year due, in part, to the expansion of primary health, in direct contrast to the global trend, which saw the rate of NCD deaths rise by 9.6 per cent between 2000 and 2012.

Despite Brazil’s successes in reducing NCD mortality, however, the WHO is calling for more action to be taken to reduce the epidemic which is particularly widespread in low- and middle-income countries where NCD deaths are overtaking those from infectious diseases. In addition, the rate of premature deaths is especially impacting those countries’ efforts to alleviate poverty and achieve specific development goals. From 2011 to 2025, cumulative economic losses due to NCDs for low- and middle-income countries are estimated at $7 trillion.

As a result, the UN agency has outlined a nine-point voluntary action plan which, it says, would address key NCD risk factors including tobacco use, salt intake, physical inactivity, high blood pressure and harmful use of alcohol and seek to reduce the number of premature NCD deaths by 25 per cent by 2025.

“Our world possesses the knowledge and resources to achieve the nine global NCD targets by 2025,” explained Dr. Oleg Chestnov, the WHO’s Assistant Director-General for non-communicable Diseases and Mental Health. “Falling short of the targets would be unacceptable.”

Among its suggestions, the report also provides so-called ‘best buy’ or cost-effective, high-impact interventions which encompass all forms of tobacco advertising, the replacement of trans fats with polyunsaturated fats, restricting or banning alcohol advertising, preventing heart attacks and strokes, promoting breastfeeding, implementing public awareness programmes on diet and physical activity, and preventing cervical cancer through screening.

“If we miss this opportunity to set national targets in 2015 and work towards attaining our promises in 2025, we will have failed to address one of the major challenges for development in the 21st century,” concluded Dr. Chestnov.

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No new Ebola cases reported in most of Liberia counties over past week

INTERNATIONAL – The United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) on Monday, January 19 welcomed encouraging statistics recently released by Liberia’s Minister of health and Social Welfare that reported that 12 of the country’s 15 counties have had no new cases within the past seven days.

The three regions that are still reporting new cases in Liberia include Grand Cape Mount, Margibi and Montserrado, a UN spokesman told reporters in New York this afternoon.

Farhan Haq also said that according to the UN World Health Organization (WHO), Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone all reported their lowest weekly total of new cases in months.

Guinea reported its lowest weekly total of new cases since 17 of August 2014. Liberia has had no confirmed cases nationally for the final two days of the week ending the 11th of January 2015. And Sierra Leone has recorded its lowest total of new cases since 31 August 2014.

The spokesperson also said that UNMEER was welcoming these new developments as ‘very good’ progress but was also cautioning all involved in the fight against the virus to remain on high alert and continue the high intensity of response efforts.

Additionally, over the weekend, WHO, UNMEER and the Malian Government declared Mali free from active Ebola transmission.

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Reconciliation, dialogue, human rights vital to spirit of peace in El Salvador

EL SALVADOR – United NationsSecretary-GeneralBan Ki-moon called on Salvadorans to keep the spirit of peace alive, as he attended at a ceremony commemorating the 23rd anniversary of El Salvador’s 1991 Peace Accords on January 16, 2015.

“Keep [the spirit] alive by deepening reconciliation and dialogue within Salvadoran society,” he said at the event, which took place in the capital, San Salvador. “Keep it alive by fully upholding international human rights obligations. Keep it alive by intensifying efforts to safeguard the rights of victims, building on the 2010 official apology.”

Mr. Ban became the first UN Secretary-General to attend the annual commemoration of the peace agreement, as he visited the Central American nation as part of his recent tour of the region.

Hespokeof a ‘lasting bond’ formed between the UN and El Salvador, and said his attendance was ‘deeply meaningful’ to the UN and ‘deeply moving’ on a personal level. That was at least in part because of the conflict, discord and bloodshed currently prevalent elsewhere in the world and the pessimism with which people greeted such situations.

“In many trouble spots, people say: Our differences are too wide. The wounds are too deep. Peace is not possible,” he said. “To all of them, I say: Look to the people of El Salvador. Peace is precious and peace is possible. That is El Salvador’s message to the world. That is your gift to humanity.”

Despite a war lasting over a decade, accounting for the deaths of more than 75,000 Salvadorans and the displacement of a million more, El Salvador had proven the possibility of overcoming differences through dialogue and the transformation of society through mutual respect and tolerance.

Mr. Ban described the lasting impression that the peace-making and peace-building process in El Salvador left on the UN, with the Organization’s Mission in the country, ONUSAL, leading the way on post-conflict peace-building.

“The peace process pioneered a new generation of peace operations and profoundly shaped how the United Nations faces global challenges to this very day,” the Secretary-General said. “Your efforts have helped advance peace in virtually every corner of the world.”

Challenges still remained, including citizen insecurity, social exclusion and lack of opportunities, as well as sexual violence against women and the fact that 40 per cent of murders in the country were against children and youth. Peace would be consolidated when structural challenges such as inequality and exclusion were addressed, and social cohesion would come when all communities became part of the conversation.

Mr. Ban also took part today in apress conferencewith President Salvador Sánchez Cerén, welcoming ongoing efforts made by El Salvador’s Government to improve the situation in the country.

Its recent election to the UN Human Rights Council demonstrated as much and recognized its engagement with and commitment to UN principles, while the establishment of bodies like the National Council on Citizen Security and Coexistence were also positive steps. The UN was also “fully ready” to support recent recommendations made by the National Security Commission.

“I am also pleased that the [recently launched five-year Development] Plan places human rights at the centre of policy making. I have encouraged President Sánchez Cerén to continue working to strengthen the human rights of women, children, the LGBT community and indigenous peoples and to beef up institutions to end impunity,” he said.

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Libya: Ceasefire announcements welcomed, and commitment to dialogue process

INTERNATIONAL – Three days after the end of the first round of talks under the Libyan political dialogue process, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) has welcomed the unilateral announcements by the parties in Libya of a ceasefire in order to resolve the conflict peacefully through dialogue.

“The Mission calls on the parties to work with UNSMIL on the specific elements of the ceasefire, including the mechanism to ensure compliance with it,” said apress statement released by UNSMIL, adding that the move was an encouraging sign that made a significant contribution to creating the conducive environment for the ongoing dialogue.

The ceasefire comes after a first round of intensive talks, hosted by UNSMIL in Geneva last week, in which participants agreed upon an agenda for talks going forward, with the aim of reaching a political agreement to form a consensual national unity government, and making security arrangements necessary to end fighting and ensure the withdrawal of armed groups from Libyan cities.

As well as discussing confidence-building measures to safeguard Libya's national unity and to alleviate the population's suffering, participants also agreed to hold another round of talks in Geneva next week and strongly urged all relevant Libyan stakeholders to attend.

“UNSMIL is calling for an end to the fighting to spare Libyan blood, stop the destruction and pave the way for a peaceful search for solutions to Libya's political and security crisis through dialogue,” the Mission's statement said. “A truce will also allow humanitarian aid to flow to the displaced and the needy in affected areas and will encourage international organizations to resume full operations in the country.”

The Mission urged parties to ensure that the ceasefire applies to ground, sea and air operations as well as movement of armed personnel and vehicles. Committees from both sides will coordinate with UNSMIL regarding tackling any breaches.

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Africa Cup tournament kick off campaign rallying support to end hunger

INTERNATIONAL – A United Nations-supported video campaign to fight hunger in Africa will feature at the matches throughout the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations, which started Saturday, 17 January, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced.

In the video, a footballer dressed in white garb dribbles a ball across an abandoned underground construction site, laser focused, dust stirring up around him as he angles for the winning kick – he takes it and scores – which represents for overcoming hunger in Africa by 2025.

“Eradicating hunger requires teamwork and perseverance – the same qualities that players in the Nations Cup show us on the field,” said José Graziano da Silva, FAO Director-General.

The campaign, ‘African Football against Hunger,’ is a product of the partnership between FAO and the Confederation of African Football (CAF), and will spotlight the breakthrough commitment by African leaders to end hunger in the next decade.

The initiative leverages the global popularity of “footie” to spread a message of solidarity: African nations can overcome hunger in our lifetime, but they need collective action and popular support to reach their goal.

Of particular significance, Mr. Graziano da Silva stressed, is adequate nutrition to reach one's goals, athletic or otherwise.

Hunger, unlike the invisible opponent in the video, is tangible across the African continent, says FAO. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, 223 million people – or one fourth the population there – are undernourished. This hampers their ability to lead healthy, productive lives and holds Africa as a whole back from reaching its full potential.

“Football brings together people from all over the continent and that makes it the ideal platform to call for solidarity,” said Mario Lubetkin, FAO´s Director of Communications, during a press conference in Bata, Equatorial Guinea, on the eve of the opening of the Africa Cup of Nations.

He also added that (it can) “bring people across Africa on board with our joint effort to raise the bar in the fight against hunger.”

Home to seven out of 10 of the planet's fastest growing economies, Africa also has the youngest population in the world. However, regional markets are still dominated by foreign food imports and youth unemployment runs high.

Therefore, investing in agricultural development now could improve inclusive growth that boosts youth employment, strengthens rural livelihoods and meets the food challenges of a growing world population.

In this regard, the FAO-administered Africa Solidarity Trust Fund, also featured in the video, was established in 2013. As the first Africa-for-Africa fund, it has so far leveraged some $40 million from African States (primarily Equatorial Guinea and Angola) for projects that aim to improve agriculture and fight hunger.

The work of FAO and the Fund complement the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP), a home-grown, region-wide cooperative effort to boost agricultural productivity that was launched by governments 10 years ago.

Investments in agricultural development, strong social safety nets and rights to access resources are of great importance to ensure a food-secure Africa, according to the UN agency. It also highlights the need to support small-scale farmers, who work more than 60 percent of the agricultural land.

The Africa Cup of Nations takes place in a pivotal year for international development, with the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) coming to an end and the international community finalizing a set of sustainable development targets to succeed them.

Sustainable livelihoods and food security are likely to be cornerstones of the post-2015 development agenda.

“This is the time for governments, institutions and civil society on the continent to come together and double down on efforts to make hunger history,” Mr. Lubetkin underscored.

Sixteen teams will compete in the Africa Cup of Nations from Saturday, 17 January to 8 February in venues across Equatorial Guinea.

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UN envoy describes ‘sense of self-confidence’ among those battling Ebola outbreak

INTERNATIONAL – The United Nations Special Envoy on Ebola described a growing feeling of confidence among those responding to the outbreak in West Africa, but he warned that there is an absolute need to maintain focus, vigilance and discipline to ensure that the disease is wiped out.

“In the last few weeks, we’ve seen a big shift, a sense of self-confidence a sense that it can be beaten,” David Nabarro said in an interview with theUN News Centre. “[The shift] started in early December in Liberia, with some parts of the country that had been so badly affected beforehand reporting near zero or zero cases; other parts of the country at least beginning to feel better.”

This, Dr. Nabarro said, is a major change from when he took up his position last August. He describes the situation then as 'frightening' and filled with unknowns.

“We were bracing ourselves for some very bad news,” he said. “And there was bad news. September was worse, and October was difficult.”

In September, cases in the region were rising by 150 per day and the daily tally was increasing exponentially, with the outbreak accelerating ahead of the response. Since then, the daily figure for new cases has reduced to about 50 per day, with the number of cases week-by-week gradually reducing.

The Governments of the affected countries have been leading efforst to curb the spread of the virus, supported by the UN Mission for Emergency Ebola Response (UNMEER), operating in an area the size of France.

In recent weeks, Dr. Nabarro said, the response has taken on a much more local feel, shifting from treatment, safe burials and community mobilization to focusing on identifying those most at risk and those who have the disease, isolating them, and tracking down everybody with whom they have had contact.

“The phase that we’re involved in right now is called ‘case finding and contact tracing,’” he said. “It’s like detective work. And that’s where we are right now, with the absolute goal of reaching the point where there is no more Ebola infection in the region, and at the same time where we’re seeing a recovery of the normal aspects of life, like schooling, like healthcare, like agriculture and like markets, all the things that represent normal life coming back.”

That ‘detective work’ is part of what helps drive numbers of new cases down towards zero. Once new cases are emanating only from lists of people cited as having been in contact with someone who has Ebola, progress is being made towards zero cases. If surprises and flare-ups are still occurring, then there is still more to be done.

“In some parts of the region, I’m happy to tell you, that we really do understand the chains of transmission and the contact tracing is very good,” he said. “In other parts, we’re still getting surprises. Flare-ups suddenly occur.”

To maintain the vigilance and rapid response times that are vital to eradicating Ebola, Dr. Nabarro underlined the need for experienced epidemiologists and anthropologists, who together can keep a close watch on the levels of disease and what’s happening in the population to respond to it.

“We need them everywhere. We need hundreds of them,” he said, “because we need to be able to find every single person who has Ebola and keep them under surveillance and get them under treatment if they get sick and when they get sick.”

The experts need the support of supervisors; need the most effective IT for communication; and need transport systems so they can be supplied with everything they need in places without roads or access of any kind. People, materials and money will be vital going forward, and Dr. Nabarro said he would ask Governments and foundations to contribute on his upcoming trip to Europe.

He was also enthusiastic about news of success in efforts to develop a vaccine for Ebola, and stressed that once a viable vaccine is approved, at-risk health workers should be the first immunized.

“In the last few months, hundreds of health workers have got sick with the disease and too many of them have made the ultimate sacrifice,” he said. “I would like to be sure that the moment the vaccines becomes available, it’ll be the health workers who are most at risk who are protected.”

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