Two representatives of international institutions have said Ebola was not an African problem but a humanitarian one that occurs in a small part of Africa.
Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group and Mrs Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, said: “As medical doctors who understand well both the continent of Africa and infectious disease control, we are confident that the Ebola virus disease response plan, led by both the countries and the World Health Organization, can contain this Ebola outbreak and, in a matter of months, extinguish it.”
The two expressed this in an official statement copied the Ghana News Agency in Accra, stated that the emergency response must focus on four key areas.
“First, we must support health workers who are the front line in fighting this epidemic… We need to deliver proper protective equipment, give them access to the necessary supplies, provide pay commensurate with their heroic work, and make available immediate high quality care should they fall ill.
“Second, the three countries need more of everything. Liberia has one physician for every 70,000 people, Sierra Leone one for every 45,000. (The United Kingdom, in contrast, has a physician for every 360 people, the United States one for every 410.) We need to move quickly to deploy more health workers and provide more mobile laboratories, more clinics, and more rapid testing equipment.
They said the third key area was the need for countries and their international partners to communicate about the Ebola outbreak much more effectively to communities.
“The Ebola virus is transmitted to people from wild animals. The virus spreads through human-to-human transmission, with infection resulting from direct contact with the bodily fluids of infected people, and indirect contact with contaminated environments.
“Another main message is that the quicker patients receive health services, including being re-hydrated with intravenous fluids, the faster they can recover,” they added.
The fourth key area is to build stronger health systems in the three countries so that when another outbreak of an infectious disease occurs, the countries will be able to respond more effectively.
The two said Ebola could return again, or a new infectious pathogen could jump from the animal world into the human world.
Part of the solution, the Doctors said, was stronger public health and veterinary surveillance systems that spot and prevent new diseases before they get a lethal foothold in the general population.
The World Bank Group last week announced a 200-million dollar package to help contain the spread of Ebola, and also provide immediate support for the health workers.
“The cost of building more effective health systems is minor and half of the World Bank’s 200 million dollar emergency package to fight this outbreak will go toward building health systems but it pales in comparison to human and economic losses already suffered from the Ebola outbreak. We need to build functioning, affordable public care systems that can prevent, detect, and respond to these kinds of epidemics much earlier.
“The international community is now starting to come to the aid of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. We must acknowledge, though, that this tragedy is a wake-up call. We all knew that in these three countries, and in many others in the developing world, the health systems were extremely weak and could not effectively contain an infectious disease outbreak such as this Ebola epidemic.
“We must also strengthen regional institutional capacity in Africa for disease prevention and control. Now we are witnessing the results of our acceptance of the status quo. We will be able to stop Ebola in the coming weeks and months. But that is not the end of the story. Will we also build a strong enough health system to stop the next outbreak? We believe that it is a moral and economic imperative to do so, and all of us must work toward that goal,” they added.
For only the third time in its 66-year history, the World Health Organization has declared a global public health emergency. This time it is for the Ebola outbreak in the three West African countries of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.
After their traumatic ordeal in recent months, governments and communities in those three countries are looking desperately for signs that Ebola could be stopped in its tracks.
Health workers have paid too great a price thus far with close to 100 workers having lost their lives attending to the sick. GNA