UNITED NATIONS - While the priority is to stop the Ebola outbreak, measures must also ensure that the emergency response is linked to longer-term efforts to strengthen health systems in those countries hit the hardest, President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the economic arm of the UN, has said.

Navid Hanif, Director of the ECOSOC Support and Coordination/Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) delivered the statement on behalf of the ECOSOC President, Martin Sajdik, during the daily press briefing at UN Headquarters in New York.  ‘We have to get the response right, Sajdik said in a Presidential Statement, stressing that the pledges for the Ebola response must have sustainable impact on the ground and leave behind the foundation for a robust public health system.

Expressing his deepest sympathies to the families of the victims of the outbreak, he also commended the tireless efforts of health workers and the governments of the affected countries, namely Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Mali.  Following up on its special meeting, ‘Ebola: A threat to sustainable development,’ ECOSOC intends to contribute to the process of defining a coordinated and comprehensive response to minimize the economic and social impact of the outbreak.

Moreover, Nearly 6,600 people have now died from the Ebola virus, almost all of them in west Africa, the World Health Organization said Friday.

The UN health agency reported that as of December 10, there had been 18,188 cases of infection from the deadly virus in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, of whom 6,583 people had died.

WHO did not provide an update of cases in other countries, but on Wednesday said the death toll remained the same: six in Mali, one in the United States, and eight in Nigeria, which was declared Ebola free in October.

Spain and Senegal, which have both been declared free from Ebola, meanwhile counted one case each, but no deaths.