ACCRA (AA) – Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama has decried the stigmatization associated with the West African region and the African continent as a whole over the spread of the deadly Ebola virus.
“This regrettable characterization is having adverse social and economic consequences on our sub–region and our continent, and not just for the affected countries,” Mahama told an extraordinary meeting of health ministers of the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) in Accra.
Mahama, who doubles as the ECOWAS chairman, argued that although only four countries on the continent have recorded cases of the Ebola virus, “the whole sub-region and continent at large has been stigmatized.”
Other countries, he said, that have not recorded any Ebola cases have ended up suffering the consequences.
“Nations that depend on tourism that have recorded no case of Ebola are suffering from cancelation of visits. Economic activities in our sub-region have been affected,” he said.
“I’ve had to explain to audiences during the recent U.S.-African leaders summit that the Ebola outbreak – though serious as it – does not affect the entire continent and even those nations that are affected, the disease is contained in specific areas,” he added.
“We will do everything possible to defeat this disease.”
Mahama lamented that in an attempt to prevent Ebola from spreading, “some actions are rather having a negative effect in isolating and ostracizing some affected countries and worsening the situation there.”
“Some countries have placed a ban on vessels that dock at the port of affected countries and this resulting in some shippers refusing to accept cargo destined for the affected countries. This combined with the cancellation of flights by many airlines to these places is creating difficulties in getting vital supplies and personnel into the affected areas,” he added.
“We must implement containment measures but we must not implement measures that isolate and ostracize the affected countries,” Mahama told the gathering.
The Ghanaian leader argued all leaders of the ECOWAS bloc to join the fight against Ebola, which he described as “a threat to the human family.”
“The best way to fight its [Ebola] spread is to combine resources to confine and eliminate it.”
For his part, Regional Director of the World Health Organization (WHO) Louis Sambo called on the countries in the sub-region to lift a ban on flights to Ebola-stricken countries.
He urged them to “open their borders to these countries,” noting that these bans and border closures are affecting the delivery of medical supplies and personal to affected countries, he noted.
At the end of the three-day meeting, six recommendations were made.
These include assistance to affected countries through mobilization and deployment of human resources; strengthening epidemiological surveillance at entry and exit points; strengthening of health facilities at the country level; dissemination of clear and consistent messages to the populations; lifting of travel bans and ending of border closures and putting in place a monitoring mechanism that will help tackle the outbreak.
The World Health Organization has announced that the Ebola virus – a contagious disease for which there is no known treatment or cure – has killed some 1,552 people in West Africa, mostly in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, since the outbreak began in January.
The tropical fever, which first appeared in 1976 in Sudan and the DRC, can be transmitted to humans from wild animals.
It also reportedly spreads through contact with the body fluids of infected persons or of those who have died of the disease.
ECOWAS, a regional bloc that was founded in 1975, seeks to promote economic, social and cultural integration among its 15 member states.
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