OCTOBER 24, 2014 By Mohamed Massaquoi
Chairperson of the African Union Commission has said in Freetown that it is significant for research institutions and medical scientists to institute an in-depth investigation into the deadly Ebola outbreak in West Africa that has killed hundreds of people within the three Mano River Union countries of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.
According to Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, who was addressing newsmen yesterday, such a research will help member countries to swiftly respond to the disease in future.
The AU boss and her delegation were in the country to show solidarity with the people of Sierra Leone and to express their support “for the commendable efforts by the government of Sierra Leone in containing the Ebola pandemic”.
She said a lot of efforts have been made by the African Union to combat the Ebola outbreak in the West African sub-region, stressing that “Africans actually needed to understand where Ebola came from”.
Dr. Zuma further informed newsmen that the AU has put a lot of strategies in place as part of their response to stem the disease, and that they have requested member countries to contribute the necessary resources and expertise to contain the virus.
“It is important for our scientists to find out the origin of Ebola not only to address the current situation, but to be able to adequately respond to the disease in future,” the AU Chairperson reiterated. “Since the Ebola disease broke out, the AU has been very instrumental [in finding a solution to the epidemic]. We started with a meeting with Health Ministers from affected countries and we also invited their Foreign Affairs Ministers to strategize a way forward in the fight.”
She continued: “We have noticed that the international community is responding more on the infrastructural aspect, so we have therefore decided to respond by appealing to [AU] member states for support. DR Congo has responded and others have also pledged to support. In all of these, the economic aspect is very important, that is why on the 8th of November, we shall be organizing a meeting with the business people because the health aspect is ongoing but the economic and social situation is actually challenging.”
However, Madam Zuma dismissed suggestions that the AU has not been responsive since the Ebola outbreak hit West Africa, noting that the response generally has been slow due to the fact that the disease is new to the continent.
“Even the international partners were very slow in their response to the outbreak,” she said.
Meanwhile, Dr. Zuma said her Commission had held meetings with African airlines to see how they could resume their flights to the affected countries, adding that all the airline operators wanted is assurance that there will be proper screening at the airports so that their workers will be protected.
“We have engaged the French, the British and the Americans to put the necessarily structures in place at the various airports. I want to assure that we are with you and we are playing our part to address this situation,” she concluded.