African ambassadors call for rapid continental and global support to control the Ebola epidemic

BY SUPPLIED - AUGUST 19, 2014

Ambassadors to the African Union meeting Monday warned that the Ebola epidemic will get out of hand if concerted efforts are not taken immediately to assist the affected countries that already have overstretched medical personnel and facilities.

“It is important that African States and partners work together as a matter of urgency to provide a common and effective response to curb the Ebola epidemic and think about sustainable mechanisms to help manage more effectively health disasters in Africa” said the Chairperson of the Peace and Security Council Ambassador Alain Aimé Nyamitwe, of the Republic of Burundi.

Last week the African Union announced an extraordinary Meeting of the Bureau of the 6th Conference of the AU Ministers of Health in September to lobby Member States to replenish both the African Union Special Emergency Fund and the Public Health Emergency Fund which has been depleted by ongoing efforts. The African Union will also organise a donor’s conference in the same month to rapidly step up ongoing efforts.

American Ambassador to the African Union, Reuben Brigety, pledged additional assistance from the United States which will require immediate support from the African Union to request Member states to provide African military health personnel, tap into existing health care workers in Africa and develop a deployment plan within the next 24 hours to get personnel on the ground within a week. According to the US Ambassador about 25 doctors and 75 nurses are required to be deployed immediately to the affected countries.

“We welcome the continued support of the American government” said Dr Olawale Maiyegun, Director for Social Affairs of the African Union Commission, “we will do everything possible to ensure that the plan is put into concrete action”, he added.

The Nigerian government raised concerns that travel restrictions were counter-productive in responding to the epidemic:

“Adopting measures that stigmatise citizens of affected countries will not yield any positive results and is not in keeping with our traditional African solidarity” said ambassador Paul Lolo. ‘What is needed is to put in place measures to prevent the risk of travelling passengers transmitting the disease to other countries and banning affected countries from travelling will affect future inter-state relations”

Sierra Leone and Liberia added that the many challenges that are affecting an effective response in the affected countries include inadequate personnel and lack of basic supplies would be affected by the new restrictions. The two countries further appealed for additional human resources support from countries that have managed previous outbreaks successfully to help with community engagement.

The current epidemic is the biggest and most complex that the world has experienced since the first human outbreak occurred in 1976. The current epidemic The World Health Organization, in partnership with the Ministries of Health in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Nigeria reported 2127 suspect and confirmed cases of EVD, including 1310 laboratory-confirmed cases, and 1145 deaths as of 13 August 2014. However the epidemic may be far worse than the reported figures with people shunning from health facilities.