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President Koroma speaks on Ebola threat in Antwerp

By Mohamed Massaquoi in Brussels

While addressing the Sierra Leonean community in Antwerp, southeastern Brussels yesterday, President Ernest Bai Koroma assured Sierra Leoneans that frantic efforts are being made by his government to ensure that the country is protected from the spread of the deadly Ebola virus which continues to afflict some West Africa countries, including Guinea and Liberia.

He said that despite rumours that two people had died in some part of the country as a result of Ebola, the deaths were not related to the deadly virus, as confirmed by a team of medical experts which was dispatched to communities vary close to the border with Guinea.

The Ministry of Health and Sanitation has set-up a multi stakeholder team, comprising health experts, non-governmental organisations and UN agencies, to lead efforts aimed at containing the disease from crossing over into Sierra Leone from neighbouring Guinea, where the death toll is reportedly more than 80.

However, the president disclosed he is not at the moment considering the option of closing the country’s boundaries with neighboring Guinea, as Senegal has already done, but to strengthen monitoring and sensitisation strategy so that Sierra Leoneans will be well informed about the dreadful diseases, and how medical experts can work within their respective communities to tackle the virus.

 “We are very much concerned about the spread of Ebola in Guinea, some medical personnel from United States of America are already in the country to help us conduct medical test for the virus.

“In fact they tested the relatives of two people whose relatives were claimed to have died from Ebola attack but it was confirmed that they did not die as a result of the dreadful disease.

“We will ensure that proper mechanisms are put in place at the border crossing point at Gbalamuya and other areas so that people can be seriously screened before entering into Sierra Leone,” he said, adding that he is being briefed on a daily bases by Minister of Health and Sanitation, Ms. Miatta Kargbo, on issues relating to epidemic.

Following the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, the European Union announced this week it will provide €500,000 to help contain the spread of the deadly virus in Guinea and neighboring countries, and has sent a health expert to Guinea to assess the situation and liaise with local authorities.

 “We are deeply concerned about the spread of this virulent disease and our support will help ensure immediate health assistance to those affected by it,” said Kristalina Georgieva, EU Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response. “It’s vital that we act swiftly to prevent the outbreak from spreading, particularly to neighboring countries.”

The funding will be used by Médecins Sans Frontières for clinical management, including the isolation of patients and psychosocial support, the tracing of suspected cases as well as the training and supply of personal protective equipment for health workers. There will also be community-based awareness raising initiatives so as to help diminish the risk of the further spread of the virus.