WACSOF, deepening regional integration and fostering stability and development in West Africa

Ebola 2


The Ebola Virus Disease can only be contained where there is adequate preparedness in terms of health facilities, technical personnel, and well equipped and furnished isolation centers.

This was stated by the Country Representative of the World Health Organization to Nigeria, Dr. Rui Gama Vaz at the Abuja Debate, organized by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES).

The debate was intended to contribute to political discourse on steps taken so far and possible steps to be taken to contain the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa.

It provided an informal platform for exchange amongst political decision makers and civil society.

During a talk show between the moderator and Panelists on the topic “Ebola as a Threat to Human Security and Statehood”, Dr. Gama Vaz noted that at the initial stage of the outbreak there was a poor level of preparedness and not much involvement of all sectors in containing the disease.

The Country Representative of WHO to Nigeria, stated that their immediate response was to support the Nigerian government by bringing in technical personnel from their organization and also did a constant contact tracing which was monitored on daily bases using the android system.

Adding that this is very critical in fighting the epidemic, he noted that continuous screening should be carried out and proper training be given to those screeners so as to understand the exact processes and expected results.

Among the panelist was the Director of Humanitarian and Social Affairs of the ECOWAS Commission, Dr. Daniel Eklu who also noted some of the steps taken by the Commission in containing the disease to include, asking countries that immediately started closing their boarders to open it up for easy movement of persons and aid and have the people coming in and out monitored.

Dr. Eklu said they have organized four meetings amongst the ministers of health in West Africa to improve measures taken and also donated three million dollars to Sierra Leone. 

Noting the different stages in handling the scourge, he said ECOWAS is putting up necessary means to shorten the stages.

The Program Officer ECOWAS Emergency Response Team (EERT), Mr. Amaechi Alozie who looked at the outbreak from the political perspective did not think that it was attended to with the expected momentum.

Looking at the level of development in West Africa, Mr. Alozie said it may be difficult for such disease to be contained and commended the efforts of Nigeria.

Stating that no country is free from the disease, he advised that Nigerians be careful so that it does not return to the country.

He noted that ECOWAS is doing its best to have a free movement policy in West Africa.

The Program Officer also added that they are developing a communication strategy against Ebola and urged non affected countries to put up strong preventive measures so that the disease does not spread through the whole world.

Speaking at the debate, the Mission Director to Nigeria, U.S. Agency for International Development, Mr. Michael T. Harvey said they are working with the government in the region in getting their emergency system very responsive.

Mr. Harvey stated that they are also creating awareness through communication companies and noted the essence of continuous tracing of contacts which may be difficult in countries with high population.

He noted that the epidemic has resulted to food insecurity in the affected countries, increase in food price, and lack of importation amongst others which should be looked into.

During the question and answer section, some people were afraid of the disease not having a cure and the level of poverty in the region being a barrier, Mr. Alozie responded that the response to the epidemic has to be holistic for us to be victorious.

Still on this, the WHO representative said it is possible to contain the epidemic through a global support in implementing the already available plans.

He noted that an African Public Health Fund has been agreed upon by about forty countries.

Responding to a participant who said ECOWAS has failed the region in combating this scourge, Dr. Eklu said they worked in accordance to recourses made available to them, stressing that it was only Nigeria that donated $3.5m while others donated little or nothing.

He added that soon representatives from the 15 West African countries will undergo training on community mobilization and sensitization against Ebola.

Addressing the same issue, Mr. Alozie stated that the Commission has done a lot within this short while and will not relent in doing more.

Looking at the possibility of the recurrence of the disease in Nigeria, Mr. Michael said it is very likely considering the poor health system in Nigeria and advised that it should be improved upon.

Dr. Gama Vaz, added that we are still far away from winning the fight against Ebola, stressing that unless it is contained in West Africa, the risk is still very high.


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