3 July 2014

West Africa: Ebola Conference Agrees to Set Up Regional Fund

Photo: OMS/T. Jasarevic
The World Health Organization provides protective gear to a hospital in Conakry.

An emergency meeting on Ebola held in Ghana has ended with a resolution to set up a fund to support research into the disease which has claimed more than 460 lives in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

The health ministers and experts who gathered in Accra agreed to establish a fund pool to which member countries of the West African sub-region would contribute and from which they would benefit in common efforts to fight the Ebola virus.

They have also agreed to improve coordination across the region with a view to containing and preventing the spread of the disease. They also recommended measures aimed at persuading citizens to abandon certain cultural practices that encourage the spread of Ebola.

The director general of Ghana's health service, Dr Ebenezer Appiah Denkyira, said the new fund would be crucial and appealed for international support.

'Lack of interest from research institutes'

Another doctor attending the two-day conference, Dr Didier Mbayi Kangudie, said the success of the resolution passed depended on West African countries summoning up the necessary political will. He accused the world's biggest research institutes of failing to invest sufficiently in a vaccine for Ebola because it has largely affected only countries within Africa.

Sierra Leone's deputy minister for health, Dr Aboubakari Fofanah, said some of the recommendations made were already being implemented in his country. "[We have a] surveillance system including finding and reporting cases, with contact tracing andmonitoring," he said, adding that restrictions had been placed on public gatherings and schools closed in affected areas.

However, in an interview with DW, Anja Wolz of Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said the situation in Sierra Leone was still a matter of great concern. In the last two days, another 30 patients had been taken in at the treatment center where she works, she said.

According to Wolz, a major problem is that many people "are denying that Ebola exists." People who fell sick were hiding rather than go to a doctor and could infect others.

There was still a great need for public awareness campaigns, she said, as many Africans "think the white people are bringing Ebola." MSF staff were working hard to overcome this but they could not go to every single village, Wolz said, addding that the problem was the same in Liberia and Guinea.

The Accra meeting, which was convened by the World Health Organization, also identified the need for public awareness campaigns as a major priority.

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