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UN Foundation CEO on 3 untold Ebola stories

October 17, 2014, 11:15 AM UTC
Alex Kamweru/ UN Foundation

On Wednesday, Kathy Calvin was late for our scheduled phone interview, but she had a good excuse. Calvin, the CEO and president of the United Nations Foundation, was just getting off the other line with Dr. David Nabarro, the man leading the UN’s fight against Ebola.

The UN Foundation, which serves as an advocate for the UN and a platform for ideas and resources to help the organization solve global problems, is focused on delivering accurate information to communities around the world about what exactly is happening on the ground. The foundation has also set up a fund for people who want to make a taxable donation to UN operations working to halt the Ebola outbreak.

Yet as the U.S. combats its first domestic cases of Ebola, Calvin says there are still a few key story lines that are getting left out of the discussion.

“They are being told, but they are hard to compete against a nurse getting Ebola in Texas,” Calvin said. “It’s just the way of storytelling.”

Here are three stories that Calvin says are missing from mainstream Ebola coverage:

  1. Ebola is not everywhere in Africa for a reason. “The disease has been around for quite sometime. It has been contained before and it is being contained right now in countries like Gabon. Where we are seeing the outbreak is in three countries that are still recovering from conflict and are rebuilding, and they are too vulnerable and fragile to handle these kinds of attacks. Why isn’t it everywhere in Africa? Because where you have a robust system – we hope Dallas has a robust system – there are methods in place for quarantine and immediate reaction.”
  2. Borders are not protection. “Even putting up barriers at borders doesn’t work. The countries that tried it immediately had to back off of it. It is everyone’s first instinct and it’s not workable.”
  3. The private sector is key to finding solutions. “The private sector engagement and contribution of support on everything has been tremendous. I’m talking about the companies that are providing some of the protective gear and the companies that are already in Africa that are stepping up. The private sector has found a robust number of ways to be deeply engaged from financial to real assets to it’s own role in advocacy. We know that’s what the future has to look like. Problem solving is not limited to just governments.”

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