World Health Organization (WHO) has held an emergency meeting in Accra to discuss and propose suggestions to combat the outbreak of Ebola virus that has hit three countries in West Africa.
The meeting was to provide the opportunity to develop a more co-ordinated response strategy and called for stronger national leadership and intentional partnership and to also agree on a single inter-country strategy, which would galvanize key actors, bring together expertise and mobilize recourses for accelerated actions to combat the epidemic.
In his Submission, the Regional Director of WHO for Africa, Dr. Luis Gomes Sambo explained that the Ebola virus first struck human beings in 1976 in Yambuku, a village in the Democratic Republic of Congo along the river Ebola. Since then more than 20 Ebola outbreaks had occurred mainly in East and Central African countries.
He indicated the cases were initially confined to rural Guinea with the epicenter being Gueckedou. Adding that what started as a rural outbreak had now spread to Conakry the capital of Guinea as well as across border spreading into Sierra Leone and Liberia in March 2014 when Guinea notified the World Health Organization.
Dr. Sambo noted that the ongoing Ebola outbreak was the largest reported to date in terms of number of cases, deaths and geographical spread; and the first time the Ebola virus was circulating in both urban and rural communities. The current trend of epidemic and the potential risk of cross-border and international spread constituted a public health matter of grave concern.
"As of 1st July 2014, the cumulative total of 750 cases and 455 deaths has been reported in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia," he said.
He also stated that the extensive movement of people within and across borders had facilitated rapid spread of the infection across and within the three countries.
Dr. Sambo therefore appealed for improve communication between the governments, partners and communities in order to generate reliable evidence for implementation of effective and relevant actions.
He called on the Ministers of Health in neighbouring countries to strengthen disease surveillance and increased investment in epidemic preparedness. Effective measures to avert cross-border transmission of infections should be established in line with the requirement of International Health Regulations (IHR 2005).
And to Member-States, Dr Sambo reminded them to strengthen the IHR core capacities namely: legislation, co-ordination and communication, surveillance, response, preparedness, Human Resource capacity, Laboratories, entry point's zoometric event detection, food safety, chemical and radio nuclear event in line with their international commitment.
The Outgoing Minister of Health (MOH), Madam Sherry Ayitey appealed to the developing partners for funds to aid Ghana extend help to sister countries fight the virus.
Other personalities from participating countries at the meeting were Dr. R .Lamah, MoH, Guinea, Dr. S Baawo, MoH, Liberia, Dr. Abubakarr Fofana MoH, Sierra Leone, Dr. Kabange, MoH, DR Congo, Dr. E Tumwesigye, MoH Uganda, Dr. A. Sall, Institute Pasteur, and Dakar.
Source: ISD (Aliyah Bayali & Wellina Neequaye)