Abuja - The President of ECOWAS Commission, Kadre Ouedraogo, has appealed to member-states to keep the spirit of ECOWAS alive as they tackle the outbreak of Ebola in the sub-region.
He also commended the proactive response of the Nigerian government to contain the spread of the disease.
Ouedraogo spoke on Friday in Abuja during a media chat with journalists on the commission’s response to check the spread of Ebola in the sub-region.
He said that despite the outbreak of the disease, it would be counter-productive to close borders, cancel flights and restrict movements, stressing that “ECOWAS promotes free movement of persons and goods.”
He said that the regional body has commenced negotiations with member-states on the issue, citing Senegal as example that announced a three-day lock down to contain the virus.
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“We recommend that the solution to the Ebola challenge is prevention of its spread, solidarity, and collective response.”
He blamed the slow response of the spread of the disease by ECOWAS on paucity of funds and lack of information about the disease.
“At first our response was slow, yes we started late, because it was unexpected, and we lacked experience; but now, we are on track and information about the virus is available,” he said.
He said the response by the Nigerian government to the virus started earlier, even before it spread to the country.
“ Nigeria response came when the regional body set up a Trust Fund, the government was proactive enough to donate 3.5 million dollars to the fund.”
“This was a valuable contribution, it set the tone for the regional body to contain the spread of the virus,” he said.
He said the commission has since then taken several measures to tackle the Ebola outbreak by setting up a ministerial committee made up of ministers of health of member- states, that met recently in Ghana.
He said that an Operational Regional Plan was mapped out, to be updated periodically as a response to check the spread.
According to Ouedraogo, in line with the plan, the Nigerian government has offered to train personnel from non-Ebola affected state with the collaboration of ECOWAS.
“Other measures include political, technical and security, including others that we deemed fit. Ebola is a security challenge, requiring the best support from member –states.”
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He however commended health workers in the sub- region particularly in Nigeria, some of whom paid the supreme price.
“From our records, 240 contracted the virus, 120 died,” the ECOWAS Commission president noted.
He said so far the region has 4 872 infected persons, while 2 045 died, while the regional body lost two of its staff to the virus.
“We commensurate with their families and loves one’s it is a regional tragedy;” he said.
Ouedraogo however said that the Ebola virus is no longer a West Africa problem, as it has now gained world attention and warned against stigmatisation of victims by the society.
“Ebola virus is not an airborne disease, it can only be transmitted through body fluid of infected person through close contact,” he added.
He said that one of the surest ways to check the spread of the virus is adequate information about Ebola, as there no approved vaccine against the virus now.
“This is why we solicit the support of the media in giving out the right information in the best way possible, through social mobilisation,” he added.
He appealed to the media not to give information that would cause panic.