The Current State Of The Ebola Epidemic

Thursday, March 12th, 2015



In this article Marie Chantal Uwitonze offers an update on the Ebola epidemic, following the recent international action summit in Brussels.

On the 3rd of March 2015, the European Union and key partners organized an international Summit on Ebola to take stock of the current fight against Ebola, coordinate further action for the total eradication of the disease and discuss the recovery process in the most affected countries.

The Ebola outbreak primarily affected three countries: Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. So far, almost 25,000 cases have been confirmed and more than 9000 victims have died.

The event was co-chaired by Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, as well as Togo as Ebola coordinator of the Economic Community of West African States, the United Nations and the African Union.  The EU was represented by European Commission Vice-President and High Representative;  Federica Mogherini, the Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development; Neven Mimica, the Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis, the EU Ebola coordinator and Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management; Christos Stylianides and the Co-President of ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary  Assembly; Louis Michel.

The summit was attended by more than 80 delegations from all West African countries and EU member states and other countries that are contributing to the fight against Ebola, relevant partners, such as UN agencies, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, various NGOs, the private sector and research institutes.

As explained by EU representatives, EU has been a key actor in the fight against Ebola. It has been monitoring the spread of Ebola and taken collective action at home and abroad. It has mobilized humanitarian, political, financial and scientific resources to help contain, control, treat and ultimately defeat the virus. The EU and its Member States have pledged over EUR 1.2 billion to fight the epidemic. The EU is contributing EUR 414 million to provide emergency measures and longer-term support as well as the development of vaccines and treatments.

The representatives of the 3 most affected countries stressed that as a result of the Ebola outbreak, families and communities were torn apart, doctors, teachers, mothers, religious leaders and other opinion leaders were greatly affected and the disease robbed the communities of theirs ability to care for their own people.

Partners committed for continuing a cross-border deployment of doctors, laboratory assistants, and other helpers until the number of new infections has dropped to zero. Partners agreed for more extensive construction assistance for the economically weak crisis countries Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.

Invited, on the 4th at the European Parliament to address the Members of ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly, President of Liberia, H.E Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said that Ebola virus disease outbreak made it imperative for an assessment of the country’s delivery systems in all sectors and the need for improvement and modernization of the healthcare delivery system to be able to withstand any resurgence of such disease in the future. She has emphasized the need to have a full functional and comprehensive water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) program in all Liberian schools.  She called for an “Ebola Marshall Plan”.

Another invitee to the ACP-EU JPA extraordinary meeting was the United Nations Secretary General Special Representative to Africa, Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambas who extolled the resilience and hard work of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone for remaining firm and united in fighting their common enemy, Ebola. He said the three worse affected countries were among the fastest growing economies on the continent before the outbreak and said Ebola has destroyed those gains.

Dr. Chambas appealed to the ACP-EU Parliamentarians to push for a debt servicing program for Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone that will enable them restore their economies and get back on track as well as rebuild their badly damaged health and other infrastructures affected by the Ebola virus disease.

The Chairman of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly, Louis Michel recalled some lessons to be learned for the Ebola crisis, mainly the slow delivery of aid, equipment and funds; the need for a continuing fight for the medical emergency, immediate action and capacities for research; the need for governments to include in their budgets means for strong health systems and basic services; taking into account cultural aspects, communities customs and explaining the transmission channels etc. Louis Michel recalled that the Ebola outbreak highlighted the inequalities faced by the Humanity and stressed that universal health coverage would be one of the most powerful factors of social equality.  He pledged the parliament’s support to Liberia and other Ebola affected countries and confirmed that the ACP-EU JPA  will work closely with the affected countries to provide assistance where needed to rebuild affected health systems and other infrastructure as a result of the Ebola virus disease outbreak.

Marie Chantal Uwitonze is a Parliamentary Adviser based in the European Parliament.



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