Voice of America (Washington, DC)

28 August 2014

Nigeria: President Jonathan Unhappy With Ebola Stigmatization

Photo: Unicef
Special material was developed to support community outreach activities to stop the spread of the deadly Ebola virus.

Nigeria President Goodluck Jonathan Wednesday condemned the stigmatization of Nigerians travelling abroad, due to the recent outbreak of Ebola in the country.

In a meeting with David Nabarro, Special Envoy of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, Jonathan said there was no justification for such stigmatization, since his administration has made significant efforts to contain the disease. He specifically expressed concern about actions at the Youth Olympics in China.

"President Jonathan pointed out that it is unfortunate that there have been attempts by some countries to stigmatize Nigerians when they travel abroad," said presidentials spokesman Reuben Abati. "When our youth team went for sporting competition in China, they were prevented from taking part in that event and they had to return home and the Nigerian government felt very bad about it and President Jonathan drew attention to what happened in China."

Four countries in West Africa including Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria are battling the Ebola disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates the total number of probable and confirmed cases in the current outbreak of Ebola virus disease is 3,069, with 1,552 deaths. The WHO also said the disease could affect about 20,000 people before the crisis is over.

Abati said the government has been successful in preventing the Ebola outbreak from becoming an epidemic.

"The commendation by the United Nations, clearly shows that Nigeria has done very well in controlling and containing the spread of the virus after the index case that occurred here," said Abati.

Local media quoted Nabarro as praising Nigeria's effort to contain the outbreak.

"The secretary-general asked me to come here too, not because you have an Ebola problem, but because you have tackled it in an exemplary fashion... Your personal leadership on the matter has been key," he said. "There may still be some work to be done before the virus is completely cleared out from here, but other countries can learn from your fine example."

Abati said Jonathan assured the special U.N. envoy that his administration will continue with efforts to eradicate Ebola.

He said the government in Abuja will soon contact countries that are alleged to have attempted to stigmatize citizens to resolve any concerns.

"I believe that the statement by President Jonathan would be the first step in drawing international attention to the attempts by some countries to stigmatize citizens of other countries," said Abati.

"We do not expect that, with the level of information that is available on the Nigerian situation, other countries would go out of their way to stigmatize Nigerians. Because effectively in Nigeria, the government has been able to control and contain the spread of the virus," he said.

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