Excellences, distinguished colleagues:
Since the Ebola outbreak was declared in March 2014 MSF, in partnership with the Ministries of Health, has provided care to nearly 5000 Ebola patients - almost 25% of all declared cases. We have 325 international and 3800 national staff working on the ground, run 8 Ebola Treatment Centres and are in clinical trials of experimental treatments. We also started addressing non-Ebola health needs. Last week alone, our teams in Sierra Leone distributed 1.8 million antimalarial treatments.
Since September, more actors have arrived on the ground, and today we witness a substantial decrease in the number of people infected by Ebola. However, we cannot say that the epidemic is under control. 10 months into the outbreak crucial gaps remain:
- There is almost no sharing of information for cross-border contact tracing;
- Surveillance teams still lack basic resources for active case finding;
- Safe access to healthcare for non-Ebola cases remains largely neglected - very worrying with the rainy season beginning in just three months;
- Research for developing vaccines, treatments and diagnosis tools must be accelerated, with a practical plan to implement these in the response.
We strive to reach zero cases, but we cannot ignore other scenarios, where cases keep on emerging. How can the health systems learn to ‘cope’ with Ebola?
These challenges are beyond the scope of a private organisation such as MSF. They require a public health engagement and strong leadership.
The world was unable to contain this epidemic. The first lesson we must retain is that thousands have died because of international negligence.
It has become alarmingly evident that there is no functioning global response mechanism to a potential pandemic in countries with fragile health systems. A clear gap still remains between the commitments made and the direct action that is desperately needed.