Peace and Security in Africa: Ebola
Delivered to the Security Council by Ambassador Ron Prosor on 18 September 2014
The Jewish philosopher and physician Maimonides said: “The physician should not only treat the disease, he must also treat the patient who is suffering.”
The suffering in West Africa is immense. The Ebola epidemic has killed thousands of people and new cases are being reported daily. We must never lose sight of the fact that behind the startling figures and statistics, there are people who are suffering with families that are suffering.
We are witnessing a crisis - for the affected countries, for the African continent, and for the international community.
Diseases do not respect nations or nationalities. A health crisis in one country can easily spread to others in its region and often, well beyond. Unless we coordinate our response and invest more resources in fighting this disease, the Ebola outbreak will spread even further.
The epidemic already threatens to destabilize an already fragile region. Schools and workplaces are closed and it is almost impossible to get any kind of medical care because Ebola has crippled the system.
As soon as a new treatment facility opens, it immediately fills to overflowing. Patients and families are lining up outside begging for help. Health workers on the front lines are becoming infected and dying. In many places fear and misunderstanding have turned to anger, hostility, and even violence.
A global crisis requires a global response. We know that this virus can be controlled. Ebola outbreaks have occurred in Africa on more than two dozen occasions over the past 40 years – and every time, they were brought under control.
The global community has the tools and the know-how to save thousands of lives, but the response so far has been inadequate. The people of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are looking to us for help. They are counting on us for more health care workers, more equipment, and more medical supplies.
Israel is proud to be playing its part. The Jewish faith teaches ‘tikun olam’ – the obligation of every person to make the world a better place. Israel has taken this message to heart and over the years, has been one of the first countries to respond when disaster strikes. From Haiti to Ghana and more recently the Philippines, Israel has lent a helping hand to dozens of countries.
Israel stands ready to join an international task force to combat the Ebola outbreak. In the meantime, we have sent emergency funding to Sierra Leone and medical supplies to Ethiopia. We have also coordinated with the World Health Organization and sent experts in public health and infectious diseases to Cameroon. They have trained dozens of doctors, nurses and other medical staff from six different hospitals on how to prevent and contain the disease. Israeli NGOs are now preparing to send another team to Sierra Leone.
The time for global action is now. Tens of thousands of lives and the future of West Africa hang in the balance. Every country, no matter how small, has a role to play in combatting the Ebola epidemic.
We are standing at a crossroad. In our generation global health and development goals that once seemed unattainable are now within our reach. At the same time, we are confronting global health challenges that threaten to set us back decades.
This must be the moment when we replace apathy with ambition.
This must be the moment when we enable nations to become the architects of their health systems rather than its victims.
This must be the moment when we unite to defeat this disease and strengthen health systems around the world so this tragedy is never repeated.
Thank you, Madame President.