Civil Society Statement on the Current Ebola Crisis in West Africa:
A Call for Appointment of ECOWAS Special Envoy on Ebola
In light of the current epidemic of the deadly Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in West Africa, we the undersigned civil society organizations call on ECOWAS member states to appoint a leading, influential, strong and knowledgeable West African physician or health professional as ECOWAS Special Envoy on Ebola.
The current epidemic, which has been characterized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the deadliest Ebola outbreak since this virus was discovered in 1976, has claimed the lives of at least 1,552 people in West Africa including many health officials. We applaud and support the brave work of the health officials who continue to put their lives at risk in the care of victims of Ebola despite very difficult working environment. We stand in solidarity with our brothers, sisters, families, and communities who are battling for their lives and struggling to care for loved ones.
West African economies are feeling the impact of the world’s worst outbreak of Ebola. Travel and trade restrictions are limiting the deployment of medical personnel, equipment and commodities adding to the deadly risk that the EVD already poses to the communities and the economies of the affected countries and the region. This epidemic has exposed the challenges of our public health system and our governance institutions.
The recently released WHO roadmap predicts that 20,000 people may ultimately be infected in this outbreak. Therefore, the challenge ahead is steep and a lot of work has to be done to stem this dangerous situation.
Cross-border coordination and collaboration necessary to stem the spread of Ebola has been haphazard and chaotic. While closure of borders may provide short term relief, it is also an impediment to cross-border technical support and humanitarian assistance and has given rise to new food security challenges.
The challenge of the current epidemic calls for urgent, unified and concerted efforts by ECOWAS and the international community. The emergency meeting of ECOWAS currently being held in Accra provides an opportunity to work out actionable and effective modalities to address the Ebola crisis. The regional body is uniquely positioned to champion a coordinated response.
For these reasons, we urge the appointment of the ECOWAS Special Envoy on Ebola. Such an envoy will help draw attention to the public health and humanitarian challenges posed by Ebola and become a regional voice and leader for a regional response plan led by African and international contributors. The Envoy could also be the voice calling for effective management and coordination of cross-border transportation and logistics. The challenge we face is extraordinary and ECOWAS needs to create a specialized platform to address this.
We urge all ECOWAS member States to push for this resolution and to develop a concrete plan for operationalizing effective coordination. We call on the international community to provide needed assistance in ensuring that the response to Ebola in the region is effective, humane and sustainable.
We acknowledge that the efforts of ECOWAS and the international community can only yield results if residents of the region do their part. Hence, we also urge the populations and all civil society organizations to show more solidarity and be cautious by observing the preventive measures identified by the WHO.
|Udo Jude Ilo| Country Officer and Head of Nigeria Office|
|OPEN SOCIETY INITIATIVE FOR WEST AFRICA|
|No 32 Amazon Street, Minister’s Hill,Maitama Abuja|