MOGADISHU (AA) – The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) has put on hold the deployment of Sierra Leone troops as one of the precautionary measures to minimize the spread of Ebola among peacekeeping troops in Somalia.
“AMISOM is particularly concerned for the welfare of key troop contributing countries including Sierra Leone and Nigeria,” it said in a statement emailed to Anadolu Agency on Saturday.
“AMISOM is also acutely aware and cautious of the risk presented by deployment of troops from the aforementioned countries in Somalia,” it added.
“The deployment of the Republic of Sierra Leone’s Leo Battalion II which was due in July remains on hold at the moment,” it said.
AMISOM noted that troops undergo extensive medical evaluation before deployment in Somalia.
“Routine subsequent screening and check-ups are conducted in the mission area to ensure optimum health standards across the board,” the statement further said.
There are 21500 African troops drawn from Sierra Leone, Kenya, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Uganda and Burundi as well as nearly 550 police officers from Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Sierra Leone and Uganda.
The peacekeepers were first deployed in 2007 to protect the west-backed Somali government which was facing an insurgency from the militant group Al-Shabaab.
AMISOM said it was coordinating with the government of Somalia and the World Health Organization on pre-emptive measures.
The force is in the process of establishing an isolation ward at one of its hospitals in the Somali capital.
“While there is no cause for alarm, AMISOM will continue to treat this matter with utmost gravity and diligence,” said the statement.
Ebola, a contagious disease for which there is no known treatment or cure, can be transmitted to humans from wild animals and also spreads through contact with the body fluids of an infected person or someone who has died of the disease.
Medical doctors say common symptoms of Ebola include high fever and headaches, followed by bleeding from openings in the body.
The tropical fever, which first appeared in 1976 in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, has killed 208 people in Guinea, 60 in Liberia and 188 in Sierra Leone until July 23.
The epidemic has since spilled over to Nigeria involving a 40-year-old Liberian who had travelled by air on July 20 to Nigeria. He was admitted to a hospital with symptoms of the disease and died a few days later.
On Tuesday, West African airline Asky suspended flights to Liberia and Sierra Leone over concerns about the spread of the deadly virus.
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