Sierra Leone + 3 more

Lessons learned exercise on the coordination activities of the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response - Report of the Secretary-General (A/70/737)



Pursuant to General Assembly resolution 69/274 B, the present report outlines the key findings from the dedicated lessons learned exercise conducted with regard to the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER).

I. Introduction

  1. In September 2014, at the height of the Ebola crisis, the Secretary-General, in identical letters dated 17 September 2014 to the President of the General Assembly and the President of the Security Council (A/69/389-S/2014/679), proposed the establishment of the first ever United Nations emergency health mission to harness the capabilities and competencies of all the relevant United Nations actors under a unified operational structure to reinforce unity of purpose, effective ground-level leadership and operational direction. The Secretary-General’s intention to establish the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER), following a joint appeal dated 29 August 2014 from the Presidents of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone for the United Nations to coordinate international support for nationally led response efforts, was welcomed by the General Assembly and the Mission was established on 19 September 2014 following the adoption of General Assembly resolution 69/1.

  2. In the lead-up to the Mission’s establishment, the spread of Ebola in West Africa outpaced the capacity of the World Health Organization (WHO) and front-line responders to put in place the logistics, medical and material capacities needed to stem the spread of the virus. United Nations country teams in the affected countries undertook programme criticality exercises in order to repurpose activities to respond to Ebola-related needs, but existing capacities required galvanizing support to scale up the level and pace of their interventions so as to be commensurate with the escalating emergency. WHO advocated that it required substantial resources and robust logistics capacities to scale up to the level required. There was debate among Inter-Agency Standing Committee principals as to how to classify the crisis and whether the humanitarian community was best placed, or capacitated, given overstretch with multiple level-three crises to respond to an outbreak. Ultimately, the Inter-Agency Standing Committee did not designate the Ebola crisis as a level-three humanitarian emergency.

  3. On 8 August 2014, in line with the unanimous view of the Emergency Committee convened under the International Health Regulations for the 2014 Ebola Virus Disease outbreak in West Africa, the Director General of WHO declared that the Ebola outbreak met the conditions to be classified as a public health emergency of international concern. On 12 August, the Secretary-General appointed a United Nations System Senior Coordinator for Ebola Virus Disease, who later was reappointed as Special Envoy on Ebola on 23 September 2014. On 8 September, the Secretary-General activated the Organization’s emergency response mechanism and named a Deputy Ebola Coordinator and Operation Crisis Manager to support the operationalization of the overall response plan of the United Nations. International health experts projected that Ebola was spreading at an exponential rate. The outbreak was no longer just a public health emergency, but had become multidimensional, requiring a whole-of-system response. The Security Council, in its resolution 2177 (2014), which was unanimously adopted on 18 September 2014, declared the Ebola outbreak a threat to international peace and security.

  4. At the time of writing, according to WHO, there have been 28,638 cases and 11,316 deaths as a result of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The outbreak wrought serious humanitarian, economic, development and health consequences for the people and countries affected. Sixteen months since the passage of General Assembly resolution 69/1, the world faces a dramatically different situation, with transmission of the disease, directly linked to the 2014 outbreak, having been declared over in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Subsequently, all three countries have experienced small flare-ups of new cases associated with virus persistence in survivors; in all cases, the continued prevention, surveillance and response capacities in countries and among responding partners has resulted in rapid containment.