Vanguard (Lagos)

4 September 2014

Nigeria: Regional Summit On Ebola Scourge

editorial

IT has become abundantly clear that the best way to approach the curtailment of the Ebola Viral Disease (EVD) outbreak is to organise a combined regional effort against it. It is time that an emergency session of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in tandem with other vulnerable countries in the Central Africa zone, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo and our immediate eastern neighbour, Cameroon, is held.

We should be able to forge a common front and strategies to confront this medical emergency. Ebola seems poised to assume the potential of a runaway epidemic, and a way to fight it is for a summit of health ministers accompanying presidents of the sub-regions to be organised.

The deadliness of Ebola is evident in the way a single index case, Patrick Sawyer from Liberia, was able to bring this evil to Nigeria and thus death and infection, as well as panic to a populace already distracted by Islamist insurgency in its northeast sector.

The combined effort is needed to ensure that knowledge is shared in prevention and management of the disease, and also to explore ways of finding a cure and vaccine in no distant time. There is also a need to adopt a common approach in managing the movement of citizens across borders. We should mount public enlightenment across board to enhance public hygienic practices and eschew stigmatisation, which only forces infected persons to run and hide instead of surrendering to the authorities for proper care. This combination of efforts will help the weak countries to benefit from the strength of others and lead to an early arrest of the ugly situation.

Already, the outbreak is beginning to exact heavy tolls on the lives and livelihood of people. Travel restrictions, in particular, have ensured weaker outlooks for the local economies, especially in countries that have been hardest hit, such as Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. The trend is becoming obvious also here in Nigeria, where new Ebola infections are being reported in new areas of the country.

Nigeria's economy will be worse hit if the scourge is allowed to get out of hand because mobility, both within the country and worldwide, is one of the strongest pillars of our economic mainstay.

Nigeria should, as usual, lead the way in calling this summit and sharing some of its acclaimed success stories in Ebola management with her neighbours. We should see the danger of further spread of Ebola within and outside our country in the same light that we view insurgency and terrorism, for which we sent troops to restore stability in neighbouring countries.

The time to call the summit is now.

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