MSF International President Addresses High-Level UN Meeting on Ebola


Remarks by Joanne Liu, International President, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen.

Generous pledges of aid and unprecedented UN resolutions are very welcome. But they will mean little, unless they are translated into immediate action.

The reality on the ground today is this: the promised surge has not yet delivered.

The sick are desperate, their families and caregivers are angry, and aid workers are exhausted. Maintaining quality of care is an extreme challenge.

Fear and panic have set in, as infection rates double every three weeks. Mounting numbers are dying of other diseases, like malaria, because health systems have collapsed.

Without you, we fall further behind the epidemic’s deadly trajectory. Today, Ebola is winning.

Our 150-bed facility in Monrovia opens for just thirty minutes each morning. Only a few people are admitted—to fill beds made empty by those who died overnight.

The sick continue to be turned away, only to return home and spread the virus among loved ones and neighbors.

The isolation centers you have promised must be established NOW. 

And other countries must not let a few states carry the load. Complacency is a worse enemy than the virus.

The required response must be hands-on, rigorous and disciplined. And it must not be subcontracted. It is not enough for states to just build isolation centers. While NGOs can manage some, you will have to manage many.

Don’t cut corners. Massive, direct action is the only way.

But have no doubt about what you will face. This will be extremely challenging.

Scaling up the response will present huge organizational difficulties. The UN cannot fail in coordinating and leading this effort.

In parallel, an equally massive effort is needed to create a vaccine, an additional tool for cutting the chain of transmission.

But current models of vaccine development will not work. We need incentives for trials and production, along with collaborative research and open source data. A safe vaccine must be accessible, and rapidly delivered to the most affected populations.

There is today a political momentum the world has rarely—if ever—seen. 

As world leaders, you will be judged by how you use it.

Thank you.