The UN Security Council on Friday expressed grave concern about the current Ebola virus outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and stressed the urgency of broad cooperation in the response, as “the disease could spread rapidly, including to neighbouring countries, possibly having serious humanitarian consequences and impacting regional stability.”
In a statement presented by Jacek Czaputowicz, Foreign Minister of Poland, which holds the Council’s presidency for the month of August, the 15-member body emphasized the need for continued cooperation and coordination with the DRC Government to address the Ebola outbreak, as well as with the States in the region.
Noting “the challenging operating environment”, the Council reiterated its appreciation for the efforts of the Government, the World Health Organization (WHO) and other UN agencies, the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), the African Union, humanitarian organizations, international donors and all supporting the response to contain the disease and treat Ebola patients.
The Council also stressed the need for Government and civil society in affected and at-risk countries “to work urgently with relevant partners” to improve their preparedness for preventing, detecting and responding to possible cases, as well as to implement optimal vaccine strategies that have maximum impact on curtailing the outbreak.
Reiterating their serious concern regarding the security situation in the areas affected by the Ebola outbreak, particularly attacks on humanitarian and medical personnel exclusively engaged in medical duties, “which is severely hampering the response efforts and facilitating the spread of the virus in the DRC and the wider region” Council members called for an immediate cessation of hostilities by all armed groups.
“The Security Council condemns in the strongest terms all attacks against and threats intentionally directed against medical personnel,” said the statement, which also spotlighted the Council’s “demand that safe and unhindered access be ensured for humanitarian and medical personnel exclusively engaged in medical duties.”
Finally, the Council emphasized the importance of strengthening international support and engagement, “including full and timely financial contributions to the response, technical assistance, scientific cooperation and human resources to bring the disease permanently and successfully under control.”
The Council’s statement comes as the wider UN and international aid community are marking of one year since the Government of the DRC declared an outbreak of the Ebola virus disease in North Kivu province. Two weeks ago, it was declared a public health emergency of international concern, by WHO experts.
According to the UN, in the last year, there have been more than 2,600 confirmed cases of Ebola, including more than 1,800 deaths in parts of Ituri and North Kivu provinces. Almost one in three ‘cases’ is a child. The virus was also discovered in the large city of eastern City of Goma on the border of Rwanda and to nearby Uganda, and violence has killed health workers.