- says victims should not be ostracized
SEPTEMBER 16, 2014 By Ibrahim Tarawallie
President of Ghana, who doubles as Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), yesterday disclosed that a total of 150 tons of food support, including vegetable oil, rice and cocoa powder, will be supplied to the Ebola affected countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea to care for people afflicted by the disease and those in quarantined communities.
President John Duramani Mahama told President Koroma, ministers and other dignitaries at the Lungi International Airport during a short visit to the country that the support has come due to the fact that people in treatment centers, as well as those already quarantined, need food so that they could get the necessary nutrition needed to increase their chances of recovery.
He stated that his visit was one of solidarity and reassurance to President Koroma that “all of us are standing with you in these difficult times”.
“This is the first time for an Ebola outbreak in the sub-region, and our people are not familiar with the disease and virus,” noted President Mahama. “The disease is spreading because people are not aware of it and do not understand what Ebola really is. One of the messages to send out to our people is that Ebola is survivable and people can survive it if they get early treatment.”
The Ghanaian leader expressed his condolences to the families of health workers who had died in the line of duty, and especially to the latest female doctor to have succumbed to the disease, Dr. Olivette Buck
According to Mr. Mahama, quarantining people and isolating them so that they could not infect others is important in containing the spread of the virus, but that it does not mean ostracizing victims, noting that “what is happening to affected countries is ostracization”.
“We have now understood the disease better and systems are being put in place to ensure proper screening of people moving across borders and travelling by air,” said the ECOWAS boss. “ECOWAS has drafted new guidelines which we have circulated to all member countries. As Chairman, I have written to all governments to study the guidelines in conjunction with the WHO guidelines that were released. I urge them (countries) to abide by those guidelines in terms of our response to the Ebola outbreak.”
However, President Mahama expressed his dissatisfaction at the slow response of the international community in assisting Ebola affected countries, noting: “Even though pledges have been made, we want to see a faster role out of those pledges because the fight against Ebola is now. The longer we take to procrastinate in making the logistics and supplies available, the more danger we face in terms of the spread.”
The Ghanaian President concluded by appealing to all international organizations that have made pledges “to speed up their rollout and make sure those resources are available in those affected areas in order to fight the Ebola scourge”.
In his response, President Koroma stated that the visit of the ECOWAS Chairman will break the isolation of Sierra Leone by other countries due to the outbreak.
“I hope you will take the message across that all is not lost in Sierra Leone,” said President Koroma. “The Ebola outbreak has caused lots of havoc to our country’s economy, as well as killing lots of people, including medical doctors, and isolating a good number of homes. Lots of efforts have been made to kick the epidemic out of the country.”
Mr. Koroma informed his Ghanaian counterpart that the period of denial, misinformation and other vices that were causing the spread of the epidemic are now over, and that the government is intensifying social mobilization with lots of sensitization ongoing.
“We believe that continuous sensitization and increased international support will make very soon the issue of Ebola to be behind us,” he stated with optimism, while commending the Ghanaian President for the food items, which he promised will be distributed to treatment centers and quarantined homes.
Koroma pointed out that flights cancelation has cost the country a lot, which is why he has called on flight owners to rethink their decisions and see reasons to resume their operations in the country.