UN Ebola Chief Admits ‘Arrogant’ Mistakes, Vows End of Outbreak by August


Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the head of the United Nations mission against the Ebola virus in Africa, told the BBC he expects the outbreak that began in February 2014 to be vanquished “by the end of the summer.”

Noting that Ahmed initially mentioned “August” as the estimated date for the end of the virus’ reign over Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, the BBC notes that Ahmed also admitted its prolonged ravaging of West Africa was partially exacerbated by “arrogant” decisions made on the part of United Nations officials. “There was probably a lack of knowledge and there was a certain degree of arrogance, but I think we are learning lessons,” he told BBC. He added, “We have been running away from giving any specific date, but I am pretty sure myself that it will be gone by the summer.”

His remarks on the failures of the UN in combating the Ebola virus follow revelations last week by the Associated Press that the World Health Organization refused to declare an official state of emergency in west Africa over Ebola for fear of disturbing the politics of the region. According to emails the AP obtained, among the reasons listed for not calling the outbreak an emergency were the potential of outrage on behalf of African politicians and the possibility that such an announcement would disturb the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca.

In addition to the leaked emails, an extensive and damning report from Doctors Without Borders suggests that UN inaction played a pivotal role in allowing the virus to spread and kill at least 10,000 people worldwide. “All the elements that led to the outbreak’s resurgence in June were also present in March, but the analysis, recognition and willingness to assume responsibility to respond robustly were not,” the report states.

While the virus’ spread has been curbed significantly, fears are resurfacing that a resurgence of the outbreak is underway. In Liberia, the first Ebola case in two weeks was confirmed over the weekend: a cook in Liberia whom the Liberian Observer reports worked in a “cold bowl shop,” a common eating establishment with few sanitary precautions. Authorities are currently working to find every person the new Ebola patient personally served during the time frame she may have been contagious.

Front Page Africa reports that the patient’s “entire household of over eighty six persons have been quarantined with over one hundred contacts traced by national and community contact tracers,” and the number is poised to grow. The publication adds that she sold food to schools as well as individual clients, which could put her neighborhood’s entire youth community at risk.