Intense efforts to control the Ebola outbreak in the three most-affected West African countries will continue, the United Nations health chief said in Washington, DC today, adding that the international community is also looking for ways to build on dramatic recent progress by aiding with efforts aimed at recovery from the outbreak.

“The goal is to help people and their communities to return to a normal life again,” said Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO). “It means that children are going back to school, women can once again shop in their local markets, and livelihoods are restored.”

She placed particular importance on rebuilding health systems and services to reduce risks that were inherent within weak systems. Such rebuilt systems should cover basic, essential, primary healthcare with sensitive surveillance to give early warnings of any dangerous outbreaks. “The health systems in the three countries were fragile to begin with,” Dr. Chan acknowledged. “They collapsed during the Ebola outbreak.”

She said trust and confidence must be restored to ensure that parents immunize their children, pregnant women have confidence in giving birth safely and so malaria and other infectious diseases can be prevented.

Bruce Aylward, Assistant Director-General of the WHO provided some impressions of the outbreak response from the front-lines. He underlined the importance of building resilient systems and helping the most-affected States – Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone – to recover. Yet, he stressed that it would be impossible to fully recover if the main task – eradicating Ebola – was not completed.

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