The United Nations is closing its Ebola response headquarters in West Africa as the worst outbreak ever recorded continues to wind down. The agency, known as the U.N Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) was created in September last year and based in Accra, Ghana, a nation which has not been affected by the outbreak.
“By allowing us to set up our headquarters in Accra, President [John Dramani] Mahama demonstrated extraordinary leadership and solidarity,” said Peter Graaff, head of UNMEER, in a statement. “He made Ghana the only open gateway to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, thus allowing the movement of thousands of Ebola responders and medical and essential supplies when they were most needed.”
From the Accra base, workers were able to send equipment to affected countries by air, sea and even motorcycle that helped medical teams better handle the massive influx of Ebola patients. The virus killed more than 11,000 people in West Africa since it began more than a year ago.
Ghana’s president said the closing was an example of success for “short and sharp interventions,” in the Monday statement.
But the United Nations and World Health Organization in particular have been highly criticized for its handling of the situation. Last month, an independent panel of international health experts said that the WHO response was “behind the curve,” in its initial response to reports of an outbreak. They argued that the agency didn’t act fast enough to get the word out about the Ebola situation, and spread awareness about how to contain the disease through announcements and media.
While the number of cases has decreased dramatically, with Liberia officially Ebola-free, there have been 25 cases reported in Guinea and Sierra Leone during the week ending May 31. Last month, the International Federation of the Red Cross and World Health Organization sent medical teams to the border of Guinea-Bissau on fears that the disease may spread over the Guinean border.
UNMEER first opened its Ghana office in September 2014, and will keep a small team in place until the end of June.