West Africa vows to end Ebola in 60 days

Lesotho Times - - Africa -

CON­AKRY — The lead­ers of the coun­tries dev­as­tated by the West African Ebola out­break vowed at a sum­mit in Guinea on Sun­day to erad­i­cate the virus by mid-april.

The out­break, which be­gan 14 months ago, has killed more than 9 200 peo­ple in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia and sav­aged their economies and govern­ment fi­nances.

Guinea’s Pres­i­dent Al­pha Conde and his Liberian and Sierra Leone coun­ter­parts Ellen John­son Sir­leaf and Ernest Bai Koroma made the pledge af­ter day-long closed talks in the Guinean cap­i­tal Con­akry.

Hadja Saran Daraba Kaba, the sec­re­tary-gen­eral of the Mano River Union bloc group­ing the coun­tries, said their pres­i­dents “com­mit to achiev­ing zero Ebola in­fec­tions within 60 days, ef­fec­tive to­day”.

The sum­mit came with in­fec­tions hav­ing dropped rapidly across the coun­tries, although the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion says Guinea and Sierra Leone re­main a huge con­cern as both have seen a re­cent spike in new con­firmed cases.

Read­ing a joint dec­la­ra­tion from the lead­ers, Mr Kaba said they “recog­nised the ef­forts that have been made by the mem­ber states and the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity which have re­sulted in the de­cline of Ebola in­fec­tions and death rates”.

The World Bank said in Jan­uary the eco­nomic dam­age of the epi­demic could run to $6.2 bil­lion, trim­ming an ear­lier es­ti­mate of $25 bil­lion.

How­ever, the epi­demic “will con­tinue to crip­ple the economies of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone even as trans­mis­sion rates in the three coun­tries show sig­nif­i­cant signs of slow­ing,” it said. Worst case sce­nario ‘far away’ The In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund an­nounced 10 days ago $100 mil­lion in debt re­lief for the three coun­tries and said it was pre­par­ing an­other $160 mil­lion in conces- sional loans.

The lead­ers agreed to for­mu­late a joint eco­nomic re­cov­ery plan to pre­sent at a con­fer­ence on Ebola to be held by the Euro­pean Union in Brus­sels on 3 March, the Guinean pres­i­dency said in a state­ment.

“This com­pre­hen­sive plan cov­ers topics that af­fect vir­tu­ally all key ar­eas of devel­op­ment: ed­u­ca­tion, agri­cul­ture, in­dus­try, trade, health and so­cial ac­tion that will fo­cus on the is­sue of the man­age­ment of Ebola or­phans and im­pov­er­ished fam­i­lies,” it added.

Is­mail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the head of the United Na­tions Mis­sion for Ebola Emer­gency re­sponse, said the dra­matic drop in in­fec­tions from the Oc­to­ber peak showed that “the worst dis­as­ter sce­nario now seems far away”.

“The num­ber of new cases per week de­clined from an alarm­ing level of nearly 1 000 in the bad times of the cri­sis to 145 con­firmed cases in the course of the last week in the three coun­tries,” he said.

“How­ever, de­spite the sig­nif­i­cant de­crease of cases we must al­ways re­mem­ber that it all started with one case.

“We know how on the ba­sis of ex­pe­ri­ences in the fight against po­lio, for ex­am­ple, that it is eas­ier to go from 100 to 10 than from 10 to 0.”

In a sign of the fragility of the re­cov­ery, Sierra Leone was forced to place 700 homes in the cap­i­tal un­der quar­an­tine on Fri­day, less than a month af­ter it had lifted all re­stric­tions on move­ment.

The govern­ment said the prop­er­ties had been locked down in Aberdeen, a fish­ing and tourist district of Freetown, af­ter the death of a fish­er­man who tested pos­i­tive for Ebola.

— AFP

Health care work­ers in­side a USAID funded Ebola clinic in Mon­rovia. The World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion says of­fi­cials are now fo­cused on end­ing the big­gest-ever ebola out­break rather than just slow­ing the virus’ spread.

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