Senior United Nations System Coordinator for Ebola has said that one of the stalemates in fighting the pandemic is that airlines across the world have suspended their flights to Ebola-stricken countries, noting that the World Health Organization (WHO) is finding it difficult to send in doctors and other assistance because of the development.
David Nabarro, who was appointed by Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to work out ways as to how best the UN can support affected countries in the fight against the Ebola outbreak, was speaking in Freetown yesterday as he wrapped up his first leg visit to countries affected by the deadly virus. He said one of the biggest challenges currently facing humanitarian organizations is that they cannot easily send in assistance because of the travelling ban by airline workers to affected countries.
He voiced the need for airline operators to come onboard to assist in the fight so that more medical personnel and supplies can easily reach out to Ebola communities.
“We are anticipating strong collaboration to get the disease under control. My understanding is that some countries have stopped landing their planes in Ebola affected countries; this is a huge setback in bringing in staff and goods, and it is hindering the process,” said Mr. Nabarro. “Before I came here, I engaged airline owners, some individual governments, the Red Cross and other organizations. Ebola is not a battle but a war and all of us need to work together. This is not about the government of Sierra Leone but the entire world. I agree that strong interventions are needed: increasing response to victims and contract tracing are all significant in the fight.”
The UN envoy said the purpose of their visit to Sierra Leone and other countries was to understand the nature of the outbreak and the response of the WHO and other UN agencies so that they can appropriately inform the UN general body as to how they should work with the government of Sierra Leone and others in addressing the pandemic as quickly as possible.
“Ebola doesn’t only kill people but create negative impact on the country’s economy. Our finding is that Ebola is still advancing to other parts of the country. Every effort should be made collectively to consolidate the disease,” he concluded.
UN Country Representative, Dr. David McLachlan-Karr, said Sierra Leone strongly relies on mining companies and other economic activities to accomplish the ‘Agenda for Prosperity’ but that with the Ebola outbreak, most of the country’s economic activities have been affected.
He assured that for the next six months “it will not be business as usual” as the UN country office will devote its resources and expertise towards fighting the disease.
It could be recalled that British Airways was among the first airlines to have cancelled flights to the three West African countries affected by Ebola over fears that the virus could spread, as more African countries introduce measures to block visitors from affected areas.
Of the 590 monthly flights scheduled to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, 216 have been cancelled, according to OAG, an airline data provider. Although 14 cases of Ebola have been reported in Nigeria, flights to and from that country have not been affected.