The UN Security Council has declared the Ebola outbreak in West Africa a threat to peace and security, with UN chief Ban Ki-moon deciding to deploy an "unprecedented" emergency health mission to combat the outbreak that has impacted the lives of millions.
In his remarks to the Security Council on, Ban said despite wide-ranging efforts, the spread of the disease is "outpacing" the response.
"No single government can manage the crisis on its own. The United Nations cannot do it alone. This unprecedented situation requires unprecedented steps to save lives and safeguard peace security. I have decided to establish a UN emergency health mission, combining the World Health Organisation's strategic perspective with a very strong logistics and operational capability," he said in the Security Council's first emergency meeting on a public health crisis.
The international mission will be known as the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response, or UNMEER and would have five priorities of stopping the outbreak, treating the infected, ensuring essential services, preserving stability and preventing further outbreaks.
Under the leadership of a Special Representative of the Secretary-General, it will bring together the full range of UN actors and expertise in support of national efforts.
Ban said the goal is to have the mission's advance team on the ground before the end of the month.
He said the mission's effectiveness will depend crucially on support from the international community. "Our best estimate is that we need a 20-fold increase in assistance."
The UN this week outlined a set of critical needs totalling almost a billion dollars over the next six months.
Ban spoke before the Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution, sponsored by 131 countries -- more than any other sponsors of a resolution to date in the chamber -- "determining that the unprecedented extent of the Ebola outbreak in Africa constitute a threat to international peace and security."
Expressing concern about the detrimental effect of the isolation of Ebola-hit Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone as a result of trade and travel restrictions imposed on the affected countries, the Council called on member states, including of the region, to remove such restrictions imposed as a result of the outbreak and facilitate the delivery of assistance, including qualified, specialized and trained personnel and supplies to the affected countries.
Briefing the Council members, World Health Organisation Director-General Margaret Chan said, "None of us experienced in containing outbreaks has ever seen, in our lifetimes, an emergency on this scale, with this degree of suffering and with this magnitude of cascading consequences."
Chan said the WHO Ebola Response Roadmap outlines 12 critical actions.
"The fact that the US, the UK, China, Cuba and other countries are using a variety of assets, including military, speaks to the complexity of the challenge," she said.
"This surge in support could help turn things around for the roughly 22 million people, in the hardest-hit countries whose lives and societies have been shattered by one of the most horrific diseases on this planet," Chan said.