Ghana Chosen As Base To Co-ordinate Ebola Campaign

President Mahama addressing  the Ecowas  Health Ministers yesterday.Photo.Vincent DzatseGHANA is to be made a staging post for coordinating international efforts in containing the outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD)in the affected countries, President John Mahama, has announced.

Consequently, he has tasked the Ghana Armed Forces to co-operate with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other international medical organisations to provide a staging post in Accra, to for transferring vital supplies and personnel into the affected countries.

Opening an Extra-ordinary meeting of the ECOWAS Assembly of Health Ministers on the EVD outbreak in Accra yesterday, President Mahama who is ECOWAS chairman, deplored the panicky measures adopted by some countries in their quest to prevent the disease from spreading into their territories.

He said the excessive restrictions on travels and the border closure, coupled with the ship and flight bans from and into affected countries, rather isolated and ostracized such countries, thereby preventing vital supplies and skilled personnel from going in to help.

“We must implement containment measures (as stipulated in the WHO guidelines), but we must not implement measures that isolate and ostracize the affected countries,” President Mahama stated, cautioning that the practice could adversely affect sub-regional economies.

The meeting, organized by the ECOWAS Secretariat under the auspices of the West Africa Health Organisation, aimed at taking stock of the evolution of the epidemic and fashioning out uniform regional strategies to contain it.

Coming on the heels of the two-day meeting in Accra, of the Epidemiological Surveillance and Disease Control experts of ECOWAS- member states, the extra-ordinary meeting of Health Ministers comes at a time the world is experiencing the worst EVD outbreak in terms of scale and rapid spread, since the first outbreak occurred 40 years ago in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Close to 3,000 persons have been infected since the recent outbreak, with more than 1,500 deaths recorded in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria.

Quoting from an African proverb, President Mahama stated that if one’s neighbor’s house is on fire, it is prudent to assist in quenching it, as it could result in a spill-over. He said it was necessary to work with the affected nations in effectively combating the disease.

President Mahama called for the strengthening of the health infrastructure in West Africa, the development of specialized centres for handling Ebola cases in the future, aside from the review and scale-up of effective control practices in the sub-region.

“Ebola has stigmatized our countries, and we have no choice than to combine our resources and efforts to defeat it,” he stated, stressing that Africa as a whole had been stigmatized despite the fact that the disease had affected four countries on the continent.

“This regrettable characterisation is having adverse socio-economic consequences on the continent and not just the affected countries,” he added, stressing that nations which depended on tourism and had recorded no case of Ebola were suffering from cancellation of visits.”

President Mahama urged the development partners to realize that Ebola was a threat to the whole human family, and the best way to fight it was through concerted efforts.

He said it was the expectation that the meeting would come out with an enhanced Ebola containment and prevention agenda a uniform screening procedure across the sub-region, and a strategy for recruiting more health workers into affected areas.

Dr. Louis Samba, Africa Regional Director of the WHO, said his outfit had secured a $60 million grant from the African Development Bank to boost the immediate response capacities of health services in affected countries.

He said there should be no general ban on international travel or travel restrictions to affected countries, as it served as a draw-back in the containment efforts.

Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, Chairman of the ECOWAS Commission, urged all countries and international organisations to contribute to the Solidarity Fund that had been set up to assist in the fight against the disease, and lauded Nigeria for donating $3.5 million.

He said the level of resource mobilization was encouraging, but given the magnitude of the epidemic, the initiative should be scaled up.

Dr. Kwaku Agyemang Mensah, Minister of Health, on his part, said the unprecedented outbreak of the disease should serve as a wake- up call on sub-regional countries to strengthen its health systems to deliver at all times.

He called for coordinated action by all stakeholders, since Ebola posed a threat to all countries.

By Samuel Nuamah








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