Senior UN officials, led by Secretary General António Guterres, on Saturday began a three-day visit to the Ebola-hit Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The Central African country is facing insecurity and ongoing health emergencies, including a year-long Ebola epidemic that has claimed more than 2,000 lives.
In a statement, the UN said the team arrived in the town of Goma, located in the North Kivu region of the country which is at the centre of the Ebola epidemic.
The officials were said to have been received by Leila Zerrougui, special representative of the Secretary General in the country.
Speaking after inspecting a contingent of UN peacekeepers, Guterres thanked them for their service and sacrifice.
He saluted the courage to put their lives at risk, “in often dangerous conditions”, to protect civilians.
Civilians in DRC are also dealing with the deadly effects of other diseases, such as measles and malaria, which both claim more victims than Ebola.
This, according to Tedros Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), underscores the need for more investments in the country’s health system.
Tedros, who is part of the UN delegation, said investments on primary health care were critical so addressing “all health needs in a comprehensive way”, the statement said.
Guterres while speaking to local media expressed his admiration for the resilience of the citizens of DR Congo.
He emphasised the UN’s solidarity in the fight against terrorism, not only in Congo, but across the whole continent of Africa, and the entire world.
The Secretary General said the organisation remained “side-by-side” with the people and government of the DRC in tackling the “terrible” Ebola situation and the other health concerns, including cholera.
Jean-Pierre Lacroix, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, who is also on the trip, described the “high-level visit” as an opportunity to reiterate support for efforts towards peace and stability in the country.
He said that the entire UN system, including the UN Mission in DRC, was fully committed to ending the Ebola epidemic.
During the visit, his first since becoming the Secretary General in January 2017, Guterres will meet senior government officials, actors in the DRC peace process, and the civilian, police and military members of the UN Mission in the country.
Also with the Secretary-General in DRC are Michel Kafondo, the UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes, and Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.
Others are Mike Ryan, Executive-Director of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme, and Ibrahima Socé Fall, WHO Assistant Director-General of Emergency Response.(NAN)