"The current Ebola epidemic has become a humanitarian, social and economic crisis"

Statement by Ambassador Lyall Grant of the UK Mission to the UN, to the UN Security Council meeting on Peace and Security in Africa (Ebola)

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

UN flag

Madam President,

I thank the Secretary-General, Dr Nabarro, Dr Chan and Mr Niamah for their powerful and moving briefings today and I extend my thanks to you, Madame President, for convening this meeting on a health crisis that has profound implications for us all.

The current Ebola epidemic has become a humanitarian, social and economic crisis for the three most affected West African countries and their 22 million people. It constitutes a threat to international peace and security. And if we fail to act now, it threatens to become a catastrophe which will destroy economies and neutralise the post-conflict gains of recent years. It is crucial that the international community works together to fight and stop this epidemic, both by assisting the three most affected countries, but also by helping other countries in the region to be ready if the disease spreads to them.

It is important to remember that Ebola is a preventable and containable disease, but only if we all work together to stop it and to confront the fear and stigma associated with the disease. We must not let fears dictate the response – instead we must act. We therefore welcome the initiative of holding this meeting and wholeheartedly support resolution 2177 which injects new urgency into this fight.

Madam President,

The United Nations has a vital role to play in bringing Ebola under control. We therefore welcome the efforts made so far to coordinate the UN system’s response, in particular the announcement made by the Secretary-General today on the establishment of a Special UN Emergency Response Mission.

The United Kingdom is also playing its part. Work has already started on the $60m Freetown Health Centre. This Centre will give confidence to health workers bravely joining the effort. British military experts and staff from Save The Children UK have already joined them on the ground, to get the centre operational.

Yesterday my Foreign Secretary announced a significantly increased package of support. At the heart of this package is a commitment to lead and underwrite the provision of a total of 700 treatment beds for Sierra Leone. More than 200 of these beds are already in the delivery pipeline. We will now deliver a further 500 beds working with partners to provide and train the international staff needed to operate them.

There is simply no time to waste – every day that goes by means more Ebola cases and more Ebola deaths. And that is why we have joined this effort, by committing support to partners like the World Health Organisation, Red Cross, Médecins Sans Frontières, International Rescue Committee, the Ebola Response Consortium, UNICEF and other parts of the UN system, in their monumental effort to scale up the response. We are also helping to contain Ebola through our longstanding commitments to multilateral institutions such as the African Development Bank, the World Bank, and in particular the European Union, where we are working closely with our EU partners to make the most of our collective expertise.

As my Australian colleague has just recalled, women are increasingly more at risk from Ebola than men. We therefore need initiatives that promote practical collective action at the community and national level to protect women. Women must also be central to any discussions on the response to the outbreak.

Madam President,

We welcome announcements of support from others: such as the generous new US assistance to Liberia, this week’s announcement that France will step up its support to Guinea, and pledges of help from countries such as China, Canada, and Cuba.

But we need a mammoth and sustainable global effort if we are to beat this scourge. Current predictions are that it could last for many months, even years, and could impact the lives of millions of people. We must not let that happen.

So today we are calling on all countries to join this Global Coalition against Ebola, without hesitation, without doubt, and with the determination that we will end this terrible outbreak.

Without an immediate and concerted global push, Ebola will kill many thousands more, affecting communities for a generation. Now is a time for united action. I call on all nations to join this clarion call without delay, before this crisis becomes a catastrophe.

Published 18 September 2014