Madame Chair, Ladies and Gentlemen,
First of all, let me express my sincere thanks for co-organizing this international Conference with a distinctive focus on the actions required to build back better and the need to begin the recovery efforts in the Ebola affected countries.
Ebola marked a turning point in the humanitarian system. The epidemic challenged in fact the affected countries from different points of view, putting at risk their political, social and economic stability, as well as threatening their national security. It is fair to say that Ebola represented an existential threat for Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, which was successfully overcome thanks to the decisive help of the humanitarian community, as well as thanks to the determination of the leaderships and of the people of the affected nations.
Since the outbreak of the epidemic in early 2014, Italy has been working alongside International Organizations and Italian NGOs, mobilizing funds for a total amount of 7.7 million Euros, entirely disbursed. Italy financed the activities of the International humanitarian Agencies who were active in the field, such as WHO, the International Federation of the Red Cross, UNICEF and WFP. Furthermore, through the United Nations Humanitarian Response Network, we also delivered medical kits donated by Italian NGOs to the people of Sierra Leone.
Our response was mainly focused on Sierra Leone where we provided humanitarian support, thanks to the unique expertise provided by the National Institute for Infectious Diseases ”Lazzaro Spallanzani”. Together with them – but also in partnership with experienced Italian NGOs – we are now still working to strengthen the autonomous capacity of the local health structures to treat and prevent the transmission of the disease.
Italy participated in a huge collective effort which brought the virus under control, with a significant decline in the number of new cases. However, the epidemic is not over and we have not yet reached our common goal of “getting to zero and staying at zero”. From the Italian side, we have decided therefore to allocate additional resources in 2015 for a total amount of 24 million Euros. Out of this amount, 4 million Euros will be immediately disbursed for emergency activities coherent with the National Recovery Plan prepared by the Ministry of Health of the Government of Sierra Leone, to build the capacity of the national health system, to prevent the diffusion of the virus and to assist local population. The implementing agents of these projects will be both the UN system – namely WFP and UNICEF – as well as the Italian NGOs already present in Sierra Leone. 10 million Euros will be made available through a soft loan, as a contribution to the rehabilitation of Sierra Leone’s health system.
Furthermore, an additional amount of 10 million Euros has already been envisaged as a soft loan in favor of Guinea Conakry. The offer is being submitted to the Guinean authorities through diplomatic channels with the suggestion to employ the mentioned amount for the rehabilitation of the health system in the wake of the Ebola outbreak.
Today’s top priority is in fact to concentrate on the support for the rehabilitation of the health systems (not only in the capitals but also in remote areas) and to boost research and development by the pharmaceutical industry with the aim of individuating a vaccine in the next few months. We should remember that Ebola was mainly the result of acute poverty of the affected countries, whose health systems were unable to contain the epidemic. Ebola proved therefore that empowering these countries – building their capacity – needs to remain our first priority as donors.
Many important epidemic outbreaks occur in fragile states. In these countries it is fundamental to develop national systems capable of delivering on a universal basis public services, first of all in relation to medical and social assistance.
Since Ebola has affected not only the health, but also the economy and the stability, as well as the social order, of the affected countries, it is also necessary for the International Community to follow a comprehensive approach aimed at tackling these challenges with a holistic method. The epidemic is in fact having a heavy impact on many areas: export and foreign trade, foreign investment, employment and public finances. The involvement of the International Financial Institutions and of the private sector to help the recovery of the affected countries is therefore of the utmost importance.
As we all know, Ebola disclosed the existence of some weaknesses not only in the national healthcare systems, but also in the international response mechanisms. Not all tools at the disposal of the International Community proved to be totally prepared to face this challenge and it is fair to say that the consequences of the Ebola crisis would have been even more dramatic – especially in the first months of the epidemic – without the prompt, massive response of individual donors.
Italy supports therefore further discussion on all these issues and welcomed the decision of the UN Secretary General to set up a High-Level Panel of personalities to make recommendations to strengthen national and international response to manage future health crises.
At the European level, together with Italian relevant institutions, we are also contributing to the global effort to ensure a faster and more effective response at the EU level through the establishment of a voluntary pool of medical experts under the European Union Civil Protection Mechanism.
Finally, allow me to conclude by saying that the “Ebola stress test” was successfully passed by the International Community. We proved that we can win the hardest battle – if we stay united – and that humanitarian emergencies, even the most difficult ones, can be overcome. We have the capacity to prevent future health crises like Ebola, we have the resources to do it, the experience and the human skills. What we need is to remain committed to this subject and to remember the lessons learned. We owe it to the people of Africa and to the memory of the victims of this dramatic tragedy.
Let me conclude, Mr. Secretary-General, by applauding the courage of the hundreds of volunteers and healthcare workers in the frontline of the fight against Ebola. They represent the memorable and moving example for all of us.
Thank you Madame Chair.
INTERVENTO DEL VICE DIRETTORE GENERALE PER LA COOPERAZIONE ALLO SVILUPPO, MINISTERO DEGLI AFFARI ESTERI E DELLA COOPERAZIONE INTERNAZIONALE, MIN. PLEN. FABIO CASSESE, ALLA CONFERENZA INTERNAZIONALE SU EBOLA (10 luglio 2015)
Madame Chair, Ladies and Gentlemen,