Helen Clark: Statement at Opening of UNDP briefing on Ebola Recovery

29 Jan 2015Thank you for joining today’s UNDP briefing for Member States on Ebola Recovery. We are most appreciative of the UNDP Executive Board President’s agreement that we can use this timeslot for the briefing during the current session of our Board.The serious outbreak of Ebola in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone has killed thousands of people and left many more without close family members and caregivers. It has struck down hundreds of health workers who had so much to give to their countries. These human tragedies are compounded by the destruction of livelihoods and damage to the economies and societies of the three epicenter countries.The socio-economic impact analyses of the crisis regularly undertaken by UNDP have found that large segments of the active population, including unskilled youth and women, have lost their livelihoods. Fields have been abandoned in the most affected rural areas; the prices of food and other essential commodities have soared; and fear, stigma, and limits on domestic and international travel and trade have also contributed to the severe economic and social impact.Throughout the crisis, the peoples of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone have shown great courage. At UNDP we recognize the dedication of all involved in the fight against Ebola: government leaders and officials at all levels, health workers, safe burial groups, community leaders, NGOs, people involved in social mobilization against the disease, and more – the list is long. Without their efforts across the three countries, we would be in no position to talk about recovery right now.Ebola must be confronted as both a health crisis and a crisis which has stopped development in its tracks. It is incumbent on us all to support the three countries to make the serious development setbacks they are experiencing as short-lived as possible. The Governments of the three epicentre countries in their recent discussions with the UN Secretary General have stated that it is now time to lay the foundations for sustained economic and social recovery, pursuing it alongside, and as part of the on-going response to the outbreak.UNDP: Working to ‘Stop and Treat’ EbolaWith its substantial presence in each of the three countries, UNDP was able to respond proactively to the outbreak from the outset.We continue to do our utmost to contribute to the “stop and treat” phase of the response, and work closely with UNMEER, the UN’s first-ever emergency health mission, and other UN, national, local, and development partners.Along with sister agencies, we have backed social mobilisation efforts, and supported both the work of essential services and national leadership of the response. We have worked directly with local leaders and networks of volunteers in affected communities to identify cases, trace contacts, and give vital information about how to prevent the disease. We help excluded groups, including people living with disabilities, to protect themselves and fight stigma.The UN Resident Co-ordinators/UNDP Resident Representatives led the reprioritizing of existing UN programming in the three countries so that UN Country Team efforts could be focused on stopping Ebola.UNDP was given the responsibility of supporting the three countries to pay the salaries of Ebola response workers. Training, capacity development, and using mobile money systems – including with UNCDF support – has resulted in the workers who are putting their lives on the line to help being able to rely on being paid. That ensures that they can concentrate on delivering services, tracking cases, and putting in place the safety measures which are essential for halting the epidemic.The concerted regional and international support to the three countries in recent months is helping turn the tide on Ebola. But the outbreak is by no means over. There can be no complacency until there are zero cases.Moving to RecoveryRecovery efforts should not only be about re-building what has been destroyed, but also about taking the opportunity to build back better, including by addressing the structural vulnerabilities which allowed Ebola to take hold.All three countries have had a difficult recent history. Civil wars took a heavy toll in Liberia and Sierra Leone, and Guinea has been through a difficult transition to democracy. Access to basic services was often fragmented and unequal, and a lack of trust between people and government alienated parts of the population. These are among the factors which contributed to the conditions which led the epidemic to spiral out of control.The recovery phase is the time to build capacity for more reliable and accessible basic services. With respect to health services, that means building a stronger capacity to nip contagious disease outbreaks in the bud. That is in the interests of us all. The Secretary-General has tasked UNDP with leading the UN system’s efforts on Ebola-related recovery. In keeping with this mandate, we have worked with our UN partners in support of the establishment of a joint UN, World Bank, EU, and African Development Bank partnership to support national Ebola recovery strategies. Representatives of the four partners are working with governments and national stakeholders in the epicentre countries to identify national recovery priorities and agree on areas for support.A multi-partner Ebola recovery assessment is identifying critical areas in need of support which are aligned with national priorities. This on-going work has already identified the need for:•    trauma healing and psycho-social support, including to integrate orphans into families and help survivors reintegrate back into their communities.•    collaboration to establish early warning and surveillance systems; and•    support to boost the capacity of local governance, grow jobs, and revitalize local economies.The Deputy Director of UNDP’s Bureau for Policy and Programme Support will present the findings of the assessment to date in more detail shortly.UNDP is focusing its recovery programming around three areas consistent with the recovery assessment’s findings:•    Building economic opportunities which generate livelihoods and jobs;•    Supporting the health sector to recover; and•    Helping governments and communities to become more resilient to future crises and to manage risk better.Thanks to the large numbers of people ready to serve as UN Volunteers in the three countries, we expect UNVs to play an important part in delivering on these objectives.ConclusionAfrican support and leadership is vital for success in recovering from the Ebola outbreak and strengthening the capacity of African countries to prevent future outbreaks. This week at the African Union Summit, leaders of 54 African countries are launching an AU Ebola Solidarity Fund and disease control centre. These initiatives build on the substantial role which many AU countries have already played, including by sending health workers in large numbers to the affected countries.  UNDP applauds the leadership and initiative taken by the African Union and sub-regional organisations.  Given the scale of the recovery needs in the epicentre countries, continued international support is required. I would like to put on record appreciation of the significant efforts made by many Member States, developed and developing so far in supporting the efforts to stop Ebola. A proposed conference on Ebola in Brussels in March, a Special Event on Ebola Recovery on the margins of the World Bank/IMF spring meetings and an international pledging conference on Ebola planned to be hosted by the Secretary-General all offer opportunities for more information to be given and pledges of support to be made. These events will help to rally support behind the recovery efforts, while maintaining a strong focus on the health emergency goal of getting to zero. There will be no recovery if the transmission of the disease isn’t stopped. And there will be no recovery without reconstruction of the social and economic fabric which has been damaged by the outbreak.We hope that Member States will continue to show strong solidarity with the affected countries, and give tangible support to recovery efforts.
Source: Business & Finance

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