By Ndidi Chukwu
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has called on all ECOWAS member states to unite and help meet the immediate needs of countries affected by the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) which has claimed the lives of thousands in Africa. A press statement made available to Health Reporters yesterday, by the Director Media of the Federal Ministry of Health, Mrs. Ayo Adesugba said the President made this call when he announced a donation of US$1million in the spirit of “Africa helping Africans” in the Ebola recovery and reconstruction process going on in the West Africa Region.
The donation was announced at the International Conference on Africa’s Fight against Ebola, in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, in addition to earlier contributions made by the Nigerian government to stem the disease in the region during the Goodluck Ebele Jonathan administration.
Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Health, Mr. Linus Awute, who represented the president, used the forum to share Nigeria’s experience in 2014 in rapidly containing the deadly virus. He however pointed out that “Nigeria is not celebrating the end of Ebola in Nigeria until this disease is totally eliminated from the West African region. This is because the Ebola in one country remains also a threat to another.”
“Crucial to us right now and so we remain committed to support all efforts of the African Union in this fight.” Awute said and affirmed that along this line, Nigeria is in full support of the establishment of the African Centre for Disease Control (ACDC) working with the Regional Centre’s for Disease control, which he said, will significantly enhance health targets to build the International Health Regulations (IHR) Capacities. The ECOWAS region, he observed, was the first to take this initiative of establishing a Regional Centre for Disease Control in which the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) was designed as the Regional Centre in recognition of its role in curtailing the spread of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in Nigeria and the Region. He disclosed that Nigeria is supporting research efforts in developing therapies and vaccines against the disease, explaining that these efforts are leading to the development of promising Ebola therapies through various government and private sector partnerships.
Additionally, he recalled that Nigeria welcomed the AU Peace and Security Council’s decision taken at its 450th meeting on August 19th 2014, to support the Ebola affected countries in West Africa through the Africa Union Support to Ebola Outbreak in West Africa (ASEOWA) by deploying volunteers.
He remarked that Nigeria was among the first countries to respond, by deploying 198 personnel who served in the ASEOWA Mission which contributed to the progress made in the affected counties by reducing Ebola cases from about 400 per week in 2014 to less than 30 in 2015. Mr. Awute observed that the success may have informed governments and partners to embark on disengaging or reducing their support in human and material resources, even though the mission of the ASEOWA to stop Ebola transmission in the affected member states, prevent international spread and rebuild health systems has not yet been fully achieved. He pointed out that the recent flare-ups and upsurge of cases in Sierra Leone and Guinea and the reappearance of cases in Liberia, after being certified Ebola free by the World Health Organization, confirms that Africa is dealing with a regional and international health security emergencies of larger proportion. He therefore called on the African Union Commission (AUC) to reconsider the immediate redeployment of volunteers to the affected countries, “Until the job is done.” The colorful opening ceremony of the Conference witnessed performances by local artists and remarks by the host, Mr. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasongo, President of Equatorial Guinea and President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe who is Chairman of the African Union amongst others.