21 November 2014 – Security Council – Ebola - Statement by Mr. François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
I thank you, Mr. President, for convening this meeting at a crucial point in the Ebola epidemic. I thank the briefers, Mr. David Nabarro, Mr. Anthony Banbury and Mr. Thomas Mauget, as well as the Ambassadors of Guinea, Liberia, Mali and Sierra Leone. Through them, France wishes to pay tribute to the victims and to the local and international personnel who are working closely with the sick to provide them with assistance.
Progress in the struggle has been noted and we welcome it, but it remains insufficient and too many locations are affected. Moreover, the cases in Mali are an additional source of concern. We thank Mr. Nabarro, Mr. Banbury and all United Nations personnel involved for their actions, both at the strategic and operational levels. We also encourage the continued efforts of the United Nations to deploy personnel as near as possible to those affected on the ground. We deplore the sudden death of Mr. Marcel Rudasingwa, who led the United Nations mission in Guinea, and we offer our condolences to his family, to his loved ones and to Rwanda.
The struggle against the Ebola epidemic has mobilized France at the highest level. Last week, our Secretary of State, Ms. Annick Girardin, visited Guinea, together with the European Union Coordinator, Mr. Christos Stylianides, on the occasion of the opening of the treatment centre in Macenta, in the Guinea Forest Region, the heart of the worst hit zone. The centre is operational and has an initial capacity of 50 beds, which could be significantly increased if necessary. Ms. Girardin also travelled to Mali to express France’s solidarity with that country and to immediately strengthen our assistance to prevent the spread of the disease. President François Hollande will travel to Guinea next week to underscore France’s support for that affected country.
In this race against time with the Ebola virus, as has been eloquently recalled by others, we would like to commend the commitment, the courage, the devotion of the non-governmental organizations, such as Médecins Sans Frontières and the International Committee of the Red Cross, that are on the front lines in the struggle, as Mr. Mauget’s riveting briefing reminded us. Their interest in receiving on-site treatment or medical evacuation in the event of an infection is fully justified. That is why France is setting up a treatment centre for all staff — national and international — involved in the Ebola response, without distinction of nationality. The centre is being built in Conakry and should be operational by the end of December.
Moreover, France has ensured the establishment of a European mechanism for the treatment of international staff, including their medical evacuation to Europe. As part of that mechanism, which is already operational, France places its own evacuation capabilities at the disposal of international personnel. Our efforts to provide relief for the population, training and advice fit into the United Nations strategy to establish mid-size treatment centres in the middle of the epidemic hotspots.
We have intensified our response, in particular in Guinea. Eighty French civil security agents are working hard to set up two new treatment centres that will open in Beyla and Kérouané in mid-December. They are also participating in strengthening the centre in Forécariah. French civil security will also renovate the Manéah school in Conakry that will host the training centre for Guinean staff, both medical and non-medical, involved in the fight against Ebola, in addition to the training provided in France. The Pasteur Institute is stepping up its activities, which will be in Guinea over the long term, with the creation of a Pasteur Centre of Expertise in Conakry.
Finally, in response to the request from the United Nations and with the consent of the Guinean President, Professor Alpha Condé, we are strengthening the coordination of international assistance with the United Nations system and in support of the Guinean national coordination against Ebola. In total, more than 100 French health workers are thus engaged on the ground. We are also working in Mali, where we have sent several French medical experts to assist the national Malian coordinator in facilitating health checks at Bamako airport and assess the capacities of Malian health structures to treat the ill.
All of those measures should help us defeat the epidemic by isolating the virus and not the countries concerned. Isolation is counterproductive in the short term and harmful to their economic development in the long term. Beyond the urgent response to the epidemic, we cannot underestimate the magnitude of the economic and social consequences of the crisis. Long-term reconstruction and recovery will require coordinated efforts and assistance from the countries of the subregion in preparing their health-care systems to combat the virus. The United Nations will have to adopt an integrated, tailored and differentiated strategy to bolster resilience to such health-care shocks. That is the very thrust of the commitment of France, which will continue to work side by side with the countries of the region.