$88.1m needed ​ for ​’last mile’ of ​Ebola ​response — UN official

UN Assistant Secretary-General and Controller, Bettina Bartsiotas, says additional $88.1 million is needed to support the “last mile” of the international response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

According to a document from the UN Administrative and Budgetary Committee made available to correspondents on Friday, Mr. Bartsiotas reiterated concern about significant resources spent to support the operation’s high-level staff positions.

Presenting the secretary-general’s revised budget estimates for biennium 2014-2015 for the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response, she said that $81.9 million of the additional requirement would be spent on field-level support for affected countries.

She said $2.7 million would go to the office of the special envoy and $3.5 million would fund 25 backstopping positions at headquarters.

The assistant secretary-general said nearly 27,000 Ebola cases had been reported, resulting in more than 11,000 deaths in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

She said the mission was intended to cease to operate once the outbreak was contained and when the national governments of those countries felt sufficiently capable of transitioning into routine Ebola prevention and response activities with UN support.

She said significant strides had been made since the mission’s establishment more than eight months ago.

Mr. Bartsiotas said Liberia was declared Ebola-free on May 9 and the geographic dispersal of the outbreak had shrunk considerably to a narrow belt among coastal Guinea and Sierra Leone.

She said that weekly case totals had declined to single digits in both countries in the past month.

However, over the past fortnight, there had been disconcerting increase in cases, particularly in Guinea and in prefectures that had not previously seen cases, she said.

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Mr. Bartsiotas said careful planning had commenced to ensure the coordinated and seamless transition of functions, capacities and assets from UNMEER to the UN Country teams and national partners.

She said the Mali and Liberia offices of UNMEER closed on March 31 and April 30 respectively, while the Accra UNMEER headquarters was downsized to a light footprint and would be further reduced in the coming month.

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative maintained a roving presence between the affected countries to ensure a regional perspective as well as unity of purpose and clear operational focus among all responders, ahead of the rainy season.

She said WHO had continued to provide the strategic and technical direction, respectively, on getting to and remaining at a resilient zero case.

She said, “The sustained support of member states in this last mile of the response to finish the job is essential.”

Mr. Bartsiotas said UN Country teams, under the leadership of resident coordinators, had taken the lead in preparing for the post-Ebola recovery phase.

The relevant UN agencies, funds and programmes are also preparing to assume several of UNMEER’s essential functions, such as logistics, field crisis management and information management, to sustain the response effort, she said.

She said the Special Envoy on Ebola would maintain a dedicated and critical focus on mobilising the funds needed to ensure that the UN entities were equipped with the resources to support the vigilance necessary to reach and maintain a resilient zero.

”The collective investments of the communities, governments, and regional and international stakeholders are too great to allow for the progress to be rolled back,’’ she said.

Mr. Bartsiotas added that ”$88.1 million (net of staff assessment) in additional resources would be required for the Office of the Special Envoy and UNMEER in the period from Sept. 19, 2014 to Dec.31, 2015.

”Of that amount, $81.9 million is provided for field-level support to the affected countries, including some positions at the Regional Service Centre at Entebbe, Uganda.”

She said $2.7 million was proposed for the Office of the Special Envoy, consisting of 11 positions, for the period through Dec. 31, and $3.5 million for the financing of 25 backstopping positions at the headquarters for the period until September/

Mr. Bartsiotas also said the total requirements for the Panel of Experts in South Sudan, UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and UN Electoral Observation Mission in Burundi (MENUB) amounted to 237.1 million dollars for the year.

She said the resource requirements for the panel of experts in the amount of $947,500, covered the cost of three positions, fees and travel of experts, travel of staff and other operational requirements for eight months from May 1, to Dec. 31.

For UNSMIL, she said, an interim-funding of $31.4 million in lieu of a comprehensive 12-month budget had been approved by the General Assembly for the first half of the year.

She said this was due to a lack of clarity on operational needs under the uncertain political situation, poor governance and deteriorating security conditions in Libya.

The current proposal of $48.1 million for all of 2015 is based on the recommendations of a recently conducted strategic assessment of the organisation’s presence in that country, she said.

She said the proposal reflected a decrease of $21.3 million, from the approved budget for 2014 and a reduction of 179 positions from the previously authorised 384 positions.

An additional $65,300 is required for MENUB to finance two positions of national security officers at the UN compound in Bujumbura, bringing the total estimate to $11.76 million.

For UNAMA, an interim-funding of $93.5 million has been approved for the first half of the year, she said.

She said as a result of a review, $188 million was proposed for the year, down by $3.4 million from 2014 cost.

Mr. Bartsiotas told delegates that security of staff and assets would continue to remain a priority, the budget would still finance 1,680 positions, down 10 positions from 2014.

(NAN)

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