‘Just as our troops in blue helmets help keep people safe, a corps in white coats could help keep people healthy,’ says UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon
Published 7:16 AM, Sep 26, 2014
Updated 7:17 AM, Sep 26, 2014
WHITE COATS? Guinea’s health workers wearing protective suits join members of the Medecins Sans Frontieres Ebola treatement centre near the main Donka hospital in Conakry on September 25, 2014. Poto by Cellou Binani/AFP
UNITED NATIONS – If there are blue helmets to maintain peace in conflict zones, should the world also have “white coats” for crises like the Ebola outbreak?
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon proposed the idea as US President Barack Obama and other heads of state met at the UN to discuss what they admit is a slow and inadequate global response to the worst Ebola outbreak in history.
Speaking at the high-level meeting he convened on the sidelines of the annual UN General Assembly, Ban said that the crisis in West Africa showed the need to strengthen early identification systems and swift action.
“We should consider whether the world needs a standby corps of medical professionals, backed by the expertise of [the World
Health Organization] and the logistical capacity of the United Nations. Just as our troops in blue helmets help keep people safe, a corps in white coats could help keep people healthy,” Ban said on Thursday, September 25.
It was a reference to UN peacekeepers tasked with providing security and support to war-torn countries transitioning to peace.
The most severely affected countries – Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia – are overwhelmed. They have weak health systems and lack human and infrastructural resources, having only emerged from conflict and instability. (READ: World ‘losing battle’ to contain Ebola)
The UN’s peacekeeping mission in Liberia is supporting efforts to fight the outbreak but admits it not medically trained to take a primary role.
The World Health Organization and groups like Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are working to respond to the crisis but the needs are immense.