September 18, 2014 / 7:34 PM / in 4 years

United Nations to deploy Ebola mission in worst-affected states

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United Nations will create a special mission to combat Ebola, deploying staff in the worst-affected states - Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone - to push a “rapid and massive mobilization” of people, material and financial resources.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon speaks to members of the Security Council during a meeting on the Ebola crisis at the U.N. headquarters in New York, September 18, 2014. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

In a letter circulated to the U.N. Security Council on Thursday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he will appoint a special envoy to head the U.N. Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER), who will be based in the region.

“The strategic priorities of the mission will be to stop the spread of the disease, treat the infected, ensure essential services, preserve stability and prevent the spread to countries currently unaffected,” Ban wrote in the six-page letter, obtained by Reuters.

The 15-member Security Council is due to adopt a resolution later on Thursday that declares the outbreak of Ebola, which is spread by contact with the body fluids of infected people, a “threat to international peace and security.”

The United Nations action comes as the United States unveiled plans to send 3,000 troops and build 17 treatment centres, France announced plans to install a military hospital, and Cuba, China, Britain and others have pledged medical workers, health centres and other forms of support.

At least 2,630 people have died in the worst outbreak of Ebola virus since the disease was identified in 1976, which has so far infected at least 5,357 people in West Africa, the World Health Organization said on Thursday.

Ban said the U.N. mission would focus on 12 critical actions: identifying and tracing people infected with Ebola, caring for the infected and infection control, safe and dignified burials, medial care for responders, food security and nutrition and access to basic health services.

It would also centre its efforts on cash incentives for health workers, economic and protection and recovery, supplies of material and equipment, transportation and fuel, social mobilization and messaging.

“It is my intention that the mission will exist only as long as necessary to stem the crisis,” Ban wrote. “When the Ebola virus disease no longer poses a grave threat to the people of the infected countries, the mission will have achieved its objective and will be disbanded.”

He said he would send a detailed report to the 193-member U.N. General Assembly for approval that will outline the resources and staff needed for the mission. Ban also intends to establish a trust fund for voluntary contributions.

“No one country, no one organisation has the resources to stem the tide of the Ebola crisis. Each government is ultimately responsible for its own people. The governments and the people of West Africa have asked for our help,” Ban wrote.

Cases of Ebola have also occurred in Nigeria and Senegal, and an unrelated outbreak of the disease has happened in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Steve Orlofsky

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