Heritage (Monrovia)

29 July 2014

Liberia: Nigeria's Largest Airline Suspends All Flights to Liberia, Sierra Leone

Photo: Jarkko Mikkonen / Finnish Red Cross
Cholera in Sierra Leone, august 2012. Mabela community in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Poor hygiene, lack of clean water and sanitation contribute to high risk of cholera and numerous other diseases in communities. Blue Flag volunteer Ibrahim Mansaraf demonstrates the right procedure of washing hands

Nigeria largest's airline, Arik Air, has suspended all flights to Liberia and Sierra Leone, after a Liberian man died of Ebola upon arriving at Lagos airport last week.

Mr. Patrick Sawyer, Coordinator of the ECOWAS National Unit at the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, died of the Ebola disease in Nigeria where he had gone to attend a meeting.

Arik Air said it took the decision to halt flights as a precautionary measure and called for all inbound flights to Nigeria from Ebola-affected countries to be suspended.

"We feel especially compelled to take the business decision to immediately suspend flight services into the two Ebola affected countries due to our interest in the well-being of Nigerians," the airline, which operates routes across West Africa, said in a statement.

Earlier, Nigeria put all its entry points on red alert owing to the death of the Liberian from Ebola.

The Ebola virus, which has no cure, has killed at least 660 people in West Africa since February.

The outbreak began in southern Guinea and spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone. It is the world's deadliest so far.Ebola kills up to 90% of those infected, but patients have a better chance of survival if they receive early treatment.It spreads through contact with an infected person's bodily fluids.

On the other hand, most border crossings in Liberia have been closed and communities hit by an Ebola outbreak face quarantine to try to halt the spread of the virus.

Screening centres are also being set up at the few major entry points that will remain open, such as the main airport.All government facilities and public places are to install public access for washing of hands and all hotels, restaurants, and film centres are to play five-minute information clips on Ebola awareness and prevention.

Over the weekend,prominent Liberian doctor Samuel Brisbane died after a three-week battle with the virus.

Two US aid workers are also being treated for Ebola in Liberia, including Dr. Kent Brantly, who was the medical director at one of the country's two treatment centres run by the group the Samaritan's Purse.

The other American, Nancy Writebol, works for the Serving in Mission (SIM) as part of the same team.

Meanwhile, President Ellen Johnson- Sirleaf has declared the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in the country a national emergency.

She has, accordingly, called on all Liberians to come together to fight the disease regardless of political, social, economic and religious persuasions.

She said she was declaring the Ebola outbreak a national emergency because of its deadly effects, adding "we must show a deep sense of nationalism".

The Liberian leader made the declaration Saturday in her message at programs marking the observance of Liberia's 167th Independence Anniversary held at the Centennial Memorial Pavilion in Monrovia.

The Liberian leader has meanwhile, constituted a National Task Force, headed by her to combat the Ebola outbreak.

The President said the National Task Force will be co-chaired by the Internal Affairs Minister, Morris Dukuly, in his capacity as head of the National Disaster Relief Commission, which, according to her, will be reactivated after months of inactivity.

In her capacity as head of the Task Force, President Sirleaf called on women organizations, the Inter-religious Council, market and Labour organizations, political party leaders, traditional leaders and the media advocacy group Press Union of Liberia (PUL) to designate representatives to serve on the taskforce.

She said the role of the National Task Force is to work with the country's health team to provide support and guidance to them.

According to President Sirleaf, the Task Force will also establish community outreach force that will mobilize individuals from the communities to reach out to residents and sensitize them on the disease by providing them information as to how they can protect themselves.

The Liberian leader urged Liberians to go across borders and join their brothers and sisters of neighboring countries affected by the virus; pointing out "the hallmark and success of any nation is not in the social and economic infrastructures polices and laws, but it is the love we have for our country and others."

She expressed regret for the death of all of the health workers who lost their lives as they lost their lives while providing service to their country and humanity and called on all Liberians to follow the advice of health authorities and workers so as to make the fight against this deadly disease easier.

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