UN Ebola mission officially ends

Baku, August 1, AZERTAC

The World Health Organization (WHO) will now spearhead the response to Ebola. A United Nations operation to fight the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has completed its objectives, according to the UN Secretary-General.

Ban Ki-moon on Friday announced the official end of the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER). The World Health Organization (WHO) will now spearhead the organization's response to the virus, which has killed more than 11,000 people since March 2014. The UN Secretary-General said the UN remains committed to supporting the countries as they work to reach zero cases. He noted that while considerable progress has been made, the crisis is not over.

Mr Ban encouraged sustained financial and political support to end the outbreak.

A high-level conference at UN Headquarters in New York last month ended with more than US $5 billion in pledges to assist the three affected countries.

The Ebola mission, also called UNMEER, was established last year as WHO struggled to get a handle on an outbreak that has killed more than 11,000 people, mainly in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. WHO had been strongly criticized for fumbling its response to the epidemic, and the creation of UNMEER was widely seen as a rebuke to its leadership.

Speaking to reporters Friday, UNMEER chief David Nabarro said he had seen signs that WHO had already absorbed some of the lessons of the Ebola disaster, recovering its co-ordination role in West Africa and deploying more 1,000 staffers to the field.

"This is an example of the new WHO at work," he said.

Speaking alongside him was WHO boss Dr. Margaret Chan, who said her agency was working to reform itself — especially by establishing an emergency arm that would operate independently.

But Charles Clift, a public health expert at the London policy institute Chatham House, was unsure if adding another department to WHO would help.

And despite the health agency's repeated vows to hold itself accountable, Clift was unconvinced. He noted that some of the WHO leaders in Africa blamed for the slow response to Ebola have since been moved to other countries.

"Getting sacked doesn't really happen at the U.N.," he said.

Chan acknowledged that WHO was slow and that she was "absolutely accountable" for everything the agency does.

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