Voice of America (Washington, DC)

31 August 2014

Ghana: Officials Meet to Prepare Aggressive Ebola Strategy

Ghana is to launch a nationwide Ebola campaign to educate students against the deadly disease after a meeting of health and education professionals scheduled for Monday in the capital, Accra, according to Deputy Education Minister Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa.

Ablakwa, who also is a member of the Ghanaian parliament, said the meeting is necessary to ensure students, parents and all stakeholders are fully prepared to combat the Ebola virus because Ghana has more than 10,000 foreign students from West African countries.

The entire region currently is battling the disease, including Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria. Senegal is the latest West African country to confirm its first Ebola case.

"After the meeting on Monday, we hope to roll out a nationwide campaign on Ebola [and] what parents should be doing, symptoms they should be looking out for every morning when they are sending their children to school, and all the things that they need to know," said Ablakwa.

"We are confident that after this meeting, looking at the array of experts we have brought together, we hope that we will really be effective in intensifying the education in making sure that the preparedness measures are put in place," he added.

Spreading virus

Ghana has yet to confirm an infection of the Ebola disease, although five neighboring countries have confirmed an outbreak.

But Ablakwa said with more than 22,000 basic schools and 828 secondary schools in Ghana, it is necessary to take proactive action to prepare all contituents, including Parent Teacher Associations, are ready to combat the disease.

"We have health experts who will be addressing these stakeholders. We will take them through identifying the early symptoms, how to prepare the various schools and make sure that they improve on monitoring if they see signs [of Ebola] and what they should do," said Ablakwa. "We will also plan simulations in all regions, so that if there is any incidence [they will learn] how they will manage it."

Ablakwa said discussions at Monday's meeting will include adopting a strategy and other mitigating measures, and developing a thorough operational response plan to combat a possible Ebola outbreak.

Medical, education measures

Some experts say there is a need for the country to implement comprehensive medical measures, coupled with a nationwide education campaign, to help prepare citizens in the government's bid to combat the disease.

Ablakwa said education would be central in the administration's bid to prevent an outbreak.

"Education would be one of the items that would be high on the agenda. We are printing a lot of posters, hand bills, and leaflets on Ebola," said Ablakwa. "After, we will go out on a full educational campaign because we will not be able to have a venue where we can meet all parents. But through the mass media, we can effectively and efficiently reach out to the parents and that is what we would be doing."

Meanwhile, Ablakwa said the government has ordered 10,000 sets of protective equipment for the frontline health officials to arrive next week as part of an effort to combat the Ebola disease.

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