UK foreign secretary on Ebola outbreak in Africa

Rebuilding Peace and Stability in Afghanistan: David MilibandFormer UK foreign secretary David Miliband says “lessons must be learned” from the Ebola outbreak in Africa.

He said it would be a “tragedy” if the international community returned to “business as usual.”

Miliband, foreign minister from 2007 to 2010, is president of the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and was speaking at a conference on Ebola in Brussels on Tuesday (3 March).

 

So far, more than 22,500 cases have been confirmed and more than 9,000 victims have died.

 

He said, “Last year’s Ebola epidemic was traumatic for the people of West Africa. But it was also a stunning wake up call for all of us who had spent the previous decade working to build up health systems in Sierra Leone and Liberia. So today is a time for modesty and honesty as well as determination and aspiration.”

 

He added, “The outbreak became an epidemic because of slow response at all levels; because local people did not trust the messages they were being given; and because the call for more treatment.”

 

Miliband told the conference that the epidemic has been “beaten back” by local community education, mobilization and organization led by “trusted figures in the diverse and proud communities across the countries concerned. ”

 

He went on, “Doctors and nurses are brave and essential – and were tragically killed in large numbers. But the key to the turnaround has been the degree of community credibility rather than the number of professional qualifications.”

 

“It’s now time to apply these lessons to the immediate imperative, of getting to zero, and planning for the future. Let me put this starkly: our experience tells us that we need to turn upside down the way the response to epidemics like Ebola has been conceived.

 

“Instead of trying to develop solutions from outside, and then getting communities on board, we need to proceed in reverse order. That is because public trust and confidence are key to effective intervention.

 

“These are the practical steps that our experience suggests needs to be prioritized.”

 

Miliband resigned from the UK Parliament in April 2013 to take his post as head of the IRC in New York. The organisation is a global humanitarian and development NGO.

 

He added, ” Parts of the western world got into a terrible panic about Ebola. I met head teachers in New York City who were excluding children who had visited Nigeria.

 

“Now there is a danger that the rest of the world loses interest in West Africa. That is the tragedy that we are all here to help prevent.

“But it would be an equal tragedy if we returned to business as usual. The lessons of the last year are stark and in some ways painful. If we leave communities behind again, we will fail again. And none of us can afford that again.”

 

The conference aimed to take stock of the fight against the outbreak and coordinate further action for the “total eradication” of the disease.

 

International Rescue Committee has published a set of recommendations on the ongoing fight against  Ebola.

 

More than 80 delegations were present including ministers from all West African countries.

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Category: A Frontpage, Diseases, Drugs, Ebola, EU, European Commission, European Parliament, World

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