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Friday, October 10, 2014


Remarks by Ambassador Samantha Power, 
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, 
at a General Assembly Session on Ebola, October 10, 2014

Samantha Power
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations 
New York, NY
October 10, 2014

Thank you, Mr. President, for your leadership, for convening this extremely timely meeting. And thank you to Deputy Secretary General Eliasson, Special Envoy Nabarro, and Special Representative Banbury for your work, for your briefings, for your clear call to action, and above all, for the dedicated service of you and your staff.

Minister Gwenigale and Minister Fofanah and our distinguished colleague from Guinea, you are on the front lines of this struggle. We are humbled by the brave efforts of your people and stand by you as you face this unprecedented challenge. Everyone in this room must heed the urgent calls you have made today.

This is our 4th time convening at the highest levels of the United Nations to respond to the Ebola crisis. At the first Security Council meeting on September 18th, 134 nations came together to pass a resolution pledging to tackle this deadly outbreak with urgency and vigor – the greatest number of co-sponsors in the UN’s history.

Since then, some countries have punched far above their weight. Cuba – a country of just 11 million people – has already sent 165 health professionals to the region and plans to send nearly 300 more. Timor-Leste pledged $2 million to the effort – what the Prime Minister Gusmao called an act of “Fragile-to-Fragile” cooperation, from one conflict-affected country to others.

Under President Obama’s lead, the United States has contributed more than $156 million to fighting Ebola and deployed more than 100 experts from our CDC. We’re committed to sending 4,000 U.S. forces to the region – a number that will continue to adapt to mission requirements. These forces will oversee the construction of 17 100-bed Ebola Treatment Units, establish a regional training hub where we will train up to 500 local health care providers each week, and provide crucial logistic support to the complex regional operation.

But more countries need to step up. And those of us who have made commitments need to dig deeper and deliver faster. According to the UN’s financial tracking service, only 24 countries have pledged $1 million or more to the effort. Twenty-four countries. The Secretary General has said we need 20 times the international aid that has been pledged so far.

The need is growing, and it is growing fast. The longer we wait to meet it, the bigger the gaps grow, and the harder the epidemic gets to control. In Guinea and Sierra Leone, the number of infections is projected to double every month; in Liberia, infections are projected to double every 2 weeks.

We are facing the challenge of a generation. Every government, every organization, every business, every individual, needs to determine what the absolute maximum is that it can do, and then reach further. That is the only way that we can collectively bend the horrifying curve of this epidemic’s projected growth.

By failing to step up, the world is letting down every one of the courageous individuals on the front lines of this crisis. When we fail to provide doctors and nurses with more clinics and beds, they are the ones who have to turn away sick children, women, and men. Yet we have only a quarter of the beds that we need in Liberia and Sierra Leone. When we fail to ensure burial teams have the protective suits they need, they and their families are the ones who get sick. Yet more than 400 health care workers have been infected, and at least 232 of them have died. We are asking too much of these people. We have to ask much more of ourselves.

As the world’s response lags, Ebola’s spread is having a devastating impact beyond the individuals it infects. Its victims include children’s education in Sierra Leone, where schools have been closed since July. We know what is needed: more nurses, more doctors, more health workers and technicians, more treatment units with more beds and more labs, more protective gear, more medevac capacity, and more money to meet rising costs. As my Ugandan colleague has just described, we also need more education - much more education. If we provide these things, we can curb the spread of this deadly epidemic.

There is no better evidence of the potential to turn the tide than the infected patients who have already been cured in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, thanks to adequate medical care. For example, in just one Ebola Treatment Unit run by Médecins Sans Frontières in Paynesville, Liberia, 236 infected people have been cured. When discharged, patients are given a certificate affirming that they are healthy.

Recently, I watched a video of a woman being discharged from an MSF clinic. Her name was Jenneh Kromah. She had lost her sister and brother to Ebola, but thanks to MSF’s intervention, she survived her infection. After giving Jenneh her certificate, a doctor took off his protective glove and took hold of her hand: a simple, human gesture – but one that could be deadly when someone is infected. That touch, and the dignity and recovery it represents, should give all of us hope.

Until we are also thinking, though, about the taxi or bus that brought Jenneh to the clinic; or the family members who share her home and may also have been exposed to the virus; or all of the other people she may have come into contact with before arriving at the clinic; until we track all of those people and places, and so much more, victories like Jenneh’s and MSF’s will be pyrrhic ones.

And until we can promise the same dignified, quality attention that Jenneh received to every infected person in the affected countries, we will never get ahead of the outbreak. Until then, we will keep falling behind when we need to be surging ahead. The consequences of inaction, or of not enough action, are unacceptably high. And we have a responsibility to come together to meet this challenge.

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