Liberia is facing its greatest threat since its years-long conflict, the Security Council was told today in a briefing that focused on the impact of the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which is responsible for at least 1,200 deaths in the country.
“The speed and scale of the loss of lives, and the economic, social, political and security reverberations of the crisis, are affecting Liberia profoundly,” Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Karin Landgren, told the Council.
The spread has been “merciless,” she added, with at least 2,070 documented cases, which include at least 160 health workers.
Most health workers have gone for long stretches without proper protective equipment, training or pay, she told the Council. Local funeral rites that involve touching and washing the dead, along with a tradition of caring for sick relatives and friends, are contributing to the virus’s spread.
Ms. Landgren, who is also the head of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), pledged to provide the Mission’s full support to stop “this latter-day plague.”
She noted that successful Ebola response will require “steady governance,” as the lack of confidence in the Government’s capacity to address the crisis has contributed to “fluid political dynamics” in the country and calls from the diaspora for an organized transition from the present Government.
“The enormous task of addressing Ebola has revealed persistent and profound institutional weaknesses, including in the security sector. As the demands pile on, the police face monumental challenges in planning and implementing large scale operations,” she continued.
Given the already high unemployment and underemployments, Ebola has added to Liberia’s economic uncertainty.
Speaking to journalists after her briefing, Ms. Landgren called for an “international surge of support.”
She noted that the UN has advocated at the highest levels to avoid isolating Liberia and the neighbouring countries affected by the epidemic.
In addition, she said that that the Mission is seeking support arrangements for the front line international responders and the diplomatic community to enable them to stay and operate in Liberia.
Also addressing the Security Council, the Chair of the Liberia Configuration of the UN Peacebuilding Commission, Marten Grunditz, stressed that while it is too early to predict the actual needs in coming months, a well-coordinated support from the international community and regional cooperation is critical.
He said that despite considerable progress over the past decade, Liberia remains a fragile country in post-conflict transition.
“It is evident that sustained international support will be needed to ensure that the important gains in development and stability can be maintained, and to ensure that Liberia continues on the path towards long-term peace and prosperity,” Mr. Grunditz said.
He also highlighted the importance of efforts to ensure rule of law and protection of civilians, as well as effective public communication and other confidence building measures.