By Morrison O.G. Sayon
The Government of Liberia in collaboration with UNMEER, and other Ebola-affected countries has begun a regional meeting to prevent and control Ebola in West Africa in Monrovia.
The Liberian Government and the UN Mission for the Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) brought together the national Leaders on the Ebola response as well as UNMEER Ebola Crisis Managers from Guinea, Mali, Liberia and Sierra Leone to discuss strategies to stop the cross border spread of Ebola. Representatives from Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria and Senegal formed part of the discussion and also shared lessons and good practices.
In her brief opening statement, to the one-day technical meeting on Cross Border Collaboration on the Prevention and Control of Ebola in West Africa, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf reminded West African leaders and partners that no country can be totally free of Ebola when other nations of Africa are still affected by the virus.
President Sirleaf told the gathering that one of the best ways to totally contain the deadly pestilence is to begin sharing information through tracing and sharing of capacity amongst affected countries. The Liberian leader said to effectively battle Ebola in West Africa, a joint border monitoring is necessary as most of the affected countries share common borders.
She lauded delegates who attended phase one of the technical meeting on Cross BorderCollaboration on the Prevention of Ebola. The delegation yesterday examined key issues in the cross border transmission of the virus and discussed opportunities for closer cooperation between the affected countries in their Ebola response.
Delegates from Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Senegal, Mali, Cote D’ Ivoire reported their various strategies in containing the virus which include, Epidemiological situation report, strategy for controlling EVD transmission, cross border strategy and interventions for EVD control among others.
According to documents, cross border movements through travel and trade have enabled the spread of the outbreak in other countries in the region. Populations in the border regions share social, cultural characteristics and have traditionally lived interdependently regardless of national borders, border closures and quarantines. National governments have worked diligently with international partners to stop the transmission of the virus. A more vigorous focus on the border region will strengthen the overall response; delegates at the one-day technical meeting said.
Participates are expected to make recommendations and commitments which will be endorsed at a Summit Meeting of regional heads of state later this month.
The West African sub-region was for the first time hit by an outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) with the index case being identified retroactively with symptoms onset in December 2013 in Guinea. Through cross border movements, travel and trade the outbreak has spread to other West African countries (Liberia in March 2014, Sierra Leone in May 2014, Nigeria and Senegal in July 2014, and Mali in October 2014). Only Cote D’Ivoire from the sub-region has not been affected by the outbreak although the risk of introduction remains high.
To date, up to 99.8% of the total reported cases have been recorded in Liberia (7,168), Sierra Leone (6,599), and Guinea (2,134). The national governments of the affected countries, in collaboration with technical and bilateral partners, and lately, the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) has been working together to contain the outbreak of EVD.
These efforts according to stakeholders have not managed to halt cross-border transmission of EVD. The population in the border regions share similar characteristics, cultural and religious affiliation and have traditionally lived inter-dependent lives that ignore national frontiers. People continue to move across national borders, despite quarantines and border closures that have been largely ineffective.
Based on these efforts, the Government of Liberia decided to hold a technical consultation with national experts leading the Ebola response in Guinea, Liberia, Mali and Sierra Leone,specialists from high risk border countries, Senegal and Cote d’Ivoire have also been invited and an expert from Nigeria to share lessons from their successful control of the EVD outbreak. In addition, the Government of Liberia invited UNMEER to support the initiative.
By Morrison O.G. Sayon