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ECOWAS ministers concerned about vast unmanned borders but vow to contain Ebola outbreak

By Dasmani Laary
Posted on Monday, 7 July 2014 10:56

The ministers meeting under the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) regional grouping met in Ghana’s capital Accra to tackle the outbreak of the disease that has killed over 450 people in recent months.

We have set surveillance systems including active case finding and reporting

This was after the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned that “the ebola virus is circulating in both urban and rural communities and if care is not taken would spread across borders and constitute a major public health concern.”

A communiqué issued at the end of a two-day meeting of, the ministers said the situation posed a serious threat to social and economic progress in the region.

They called for a coordinated approach involving national leaders on cross-border collaboration and rapid community response.

A total of 750 cases and 455 deaths have been reported in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia since its outbreak in March 2014.

WHO regional director for Africa, Luis Sambo, said: “We have adopted an inter-country strategy to tackle this outbreak.

“It’s time for concrete action to put an end to the suffering and deaths caused by Ebola virus disease and prevent its further spread.”

The ministers agreed to coordinate on financing, communication, logistics, case management, infection control, surveillance, contact tracing, community participation and research.

The communiqué emphasised mobilising community, religious, political leaders to improve awareness of the disease and strengthen surveillance by deploying additional national human resources to hotspots.

Namibian scientist Didier Mbayi Kangudie, however, said the success of the region response to the outbreak depended on enough political will at tackling the disease with urgency, emphasising “everything rises and falls on leadership and leadership is critical to any medical work.”

Sierra Leon’s deputy health minister, Abu-Bakr Safana said he was confident the region was geared to fight the outbreak.

“We have set surveillance systems including active case finding and reporting, contact tracing as well as monitoring centers across all the entry and exit points of all affected areas in the country,” he said.

Ghana’s Health minister, Sherry Aryitey said her country had strengthened its surveillance at the borders to examine people, particularly those with high fever conditions, but expressed concern about the unmanned vast borders.

The meeting reaffirmed the need for African heads of states and governments to facilitate an inter-sectoral interventions and coordination required to curb the disease.

However, certain cultural practices and traditional beliefs are said to impede the fight against the spread of the ebola virus.

“Cultural practices such as bathing and touching dead bodies to say farewell is a major cause of contracting the disease,” an official told delegates.

The extensive movement of people across the borders has facilitated the rapid spread of the virus across three countries.

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