6 August 2014

Zimbabwe: Mugabe Mulls Recall of Peacekeepers From Ebola-Hit Liberia

Photo: Boakai Fofana/AllAfrica
An Ebola sensitization banner in front of the Monrovia City Corporation in Liberia.

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has said the government is contemplating recalling soldiers and police officers from Ebola-hit Liberia were they are part of a United Nations peacekeeping mission.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) the "unprecedented" outbreak of Ebola in West Africa has killed 900 people out of 1,323 infected since February and some global airlines have already suspended services to the region.

Addressing members of his Zanu PF party's central committee in the capital Wednesday, Mugabe said although southern Africa has not yet recorded any Ebola outbreak, he fears for his soldiers in Liberia and had told the minister of health to look at the possibility of recalling them.

"We have our people serving with the UN units in Liberia. Are they safe? We need to take precautions. Let us not expose ourselves. Even when we withdraw our people, the question is have they not been affected by disease already," he said.

Mugabe said he had discussed the matter with his Health minister, David Parirenyatwa who had earlier indicated that would not be ideal to pull out before he changed his mind and supporting the veteran leader.

"The minister of health said no, let us wait a bit because we have just sent a doctor to go and help. But this morning (Thursday) he said he had a re-thought about the matter, perhaps we should withdraw our people there," Mugabe said.

The veteran leader expressed surprise at learning that Zimbabwe had even deployed prison officers to Liberia.

"These (people) don't just include police officers ... I hear we even have prison officers serving in Liberia, I wonder why we send prison officers to serve in other countries? But perhaps the information may not be that accurate.

"We must not expose ourselves unnecessarily. I hope those who will be from there if we withdraw them will be people who will not carry magerms eEbola iyoyii for now we have been safe in our region."

According to International media reports, the Ebola has wreaked havoc in Liberia forcing authorities to quarantine relatives of those who have died.

Parirenyatwa recently issued an alert for the deadly warning Zimbabweans to be "on the lookout for symptoms".

"Government would like to warn the public that the possibility of an Ebola outbreak in Zimbabwe is very real," he said then.

"The continuous movement of people across borders means the virus can come into Zimbabwe in a matter of hours hence our people have to be on high alert and report to the nearest medical centre if they detect any symptoms related to Ebola," Parirenyatwa warned.

The minister said, as the next deputy chairperson of the SADC Health Ministers Council, he would try and persuade counterparts in the region to put the Ebola item on the agenda.

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