West African leaders meet to assess impact of anti-Ebola campaign

January 18, 2015 10:57 am 

ACCRA, Jan. 17 — Leaders of sub-regional Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and other stakeholders gathered here on Friday to assess the impact of its campaign against the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD).

They also discussed challenges that led to the slow pace of progress towards the containment of the virulent fever confronting the sub-region.

Opening the high level coordination meeting, Ghanaian President John Drammani Mahama expressed gladness that due to the international collaboration, West Africa was winning the fight against the disease.

"There's been a decrease in the reported Ebola cases, and at the same time we are also seeing an increase in the survival rate of those infected. There are now more medical personnel and volunteers on the ground to turn to the ill and educate the population on prevention," he said.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported on Wednesday that all three intense-transmission countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia currently had the capacity to isolate all reported cases.

In Guinea in the 21 days to January 11, there were 3.1 available beds per reported confirmed and probable EVD case.

Mahama reported that the West African Health Organization (WAHO) had as of last December 3 have trained and deployed 116 volunteers of mostly medical doctors and nurses drawn from Ghana, Nigeria, Benin, Cote d'Ivoire and Mali to support affected countries.

At country level, according to the ECOWAS chairman, each of the three severely affected countries had the capacity to isolate, treat patients with more than two treatment beds per reported confirmed and probable case.

Mahama however observed that there was a challenge in the anti-Ebola activities due to the uneven geographical distribution of beds and cases and the under-reporting of cases.

"This means that the UNMEER target of isolating and treating 100 percent EVD cases is still not met in some areas," he pointed out.

Mahama therefore called for increased emphasis on the rapid deployment of smaller treatment facilities to ensure that capacity is matched with demand in each area.

President Faure Gnassingbe of the Republic of Togo, who is the ECOWAS coordinator for the fight against Ebola, said the seeming slow down in the infection rate notwithstanding, there should be no room for complacency.

"In spite of the efforts, we are not out of the woods yet. The real impact of the measures taken so far should be measured against the impact on the ground so far," the Togolese president stressed, adding that it would be premature to shout victory.

He cautioned the international body not to relent in efforts to combat the disease to make sure that the war on the disease was completely won.

Gnassingbe also urged ECOWAS member states not to isolate affected countries through stigmatization, adding: "This is the time they need us most."

Mohammed Ibn Chambas, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in West Africa, commended ECOWAS for galvanizing the regional response to counter the epidemic.

He urged member-states of the sub-regional grouping and other stakeholders to continue supporting the efforts to fight the disease.

"The longer it takes us to stabilize the situation and effectively end the Ebola outbreak, the more it undermines government authority, affects political climates and hinders economic growth," Chambas said.

Chambas urged the international community to ensure that the aftermath of the outbreak did not reverse gains made during years of peace-building activities in the three fragile states. (PNA/Xinhua)

FFC/JSD

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