The President of ECOWAS Commission, Kadre Desire Quedraogo has described the Ebola Virus Disease epidemic is a security issue, saying it is not an issue for one country but a regional concern.
Speaking at the Health Partners Coordinating Committee (HPPC) meeting at the Federal Ministry of Health recently, Quedraogo said he took the opportunity of the high level meeting of the coordinating body for bilateral and multilateral partnerships in Nigeria to pay a courtesy visit to the minister of Health, Onyebuchi Chukwu.
According to Quedraogo, “ECOWAS has suffered the devastating effect of this epidemic because we lost one of our dedicated staff and we received support and assistance from the minister of health in handling this very sad case. We fully appreciate what the international community, the health authority in Nigeria, the health personnel, and I want here to pay tribute to the courage of all the people involved in managing this epidemic in Nigeria. We appreciate their actions. This has been considered as a very very security issue for ECOWAS.”
The ECOWAS President recalled an extraordinary meeting of ECOWAS Ministers of Health convened by President John Mahama of Ghana in his capacity as chairman of ECOWAS which took place in Accra on 28th August 2014. He said the meeting took far reaching measures on the containment of Ebola in the region at the level of the ministers of health and also at the level of the Heads of State and Government.
According to him, the priority in Accra was to see how to assist Ebola affected countries in containing the epidemic and strengthen health structures of member states in order to enable them join the struggle in containing the deadly contagious virus.
“We considered the critical issue of free movement of persons and goods in the region. Since the outbreak of the disease many member states have started closing their borders or restricting movement of persons. We pleaded against stigmatization and condemnation and urged member states to work together in total solidarity. The spirit of oneness and solidarity is the essence of ECOWAS and we should not lose the very foundation of our community because of this epidemic,” the ECOWAS President stated.
He cautioned that isolating countries affected by the epidemic would be counter-productive as closing borders will not only undermine the very essence of economic union which is the free movement of persons and goods but could also deny them the financial resources to face the epidemic.
He said that surveillance measures were recommended for member states to apply which includes screening of passengers at exit and entry points to any country. Explaining how this will work, the ECOWAS President said there was a proposal for each member state to select one land, sea and air entry point to be jointly monitored by member states to reassure any government of adequate measures to screen passengers before they enter any country.
He emphasised that where there was need to close the border this should be preceded by consultation among countries concerned with the views of World Health Organization (WHO) and the West African Health Organization (WAHO) taken into consideration to make sure that such measures are necessary.
“The general principle is that borders should be open but submitted to close very strict surveillance by member states”, he stressed, adding that it was agreed that ECOWAS should open humanitarian and economic corridors towards the member states affected by the Ebola epidemic.