ECOWAS Bolsters Ebola Fight

ECOWAS Service Chiefs in a group photograph

The Economic Community of West African States, is strengthening its fight against Ebola Virus Disease by deploying 192 military medical personnel from eight member states over the next six months to affected countries

THE Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, is to deploy over the next six months, a total of 192 military medical personnel to strengthen the fight against the Ebola epidemic in the region’s most affected countries. Countries such as Nigeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Senegal and Togo have pledged to contribute eight military personnel each, including two medical doctors and six other health officers to be rotated every two months.

They made the pledges which translate to 24 medical personnel per country at the extraordinary meeting of the Committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff, CCDS, in Accra, on Monday, December 8. For effective and timely deployment, the Committee urged ECOWAS to put in place necessary financial and logistics support.

During the meeting, the regional defence chiefs were updated on the ECOWAS response initiatives against Ebola. They also listened to presentations by the West African Health Organisation, WAHO, which highlighted the security and socio-economic impacts of the epidemic on the region, and discussed the ECOWAS Plan for the deployment of military medical personnel to the most affected countries.

In discussions that followed the presentations, the defence chiefs underscored the need for ECOWAS and member states to own the process of the fight against the Ebola outbreak in the region; solidarity with affected countries; the need for the military to join the global fight against Ebola through deployment of military medical personnel as well as respect and compliance with existing coordinating structures and mechanisms in the affected member states.

Kadre Ouedraogo

Closing the meeting, Vice Admiral Matthew Quashie, CCDS chairman and Ghana’s chief of defence staff, expressed appreciation to member states and encouraged them to redeem their pledges. He also called on ECOWAS to facilitate the deployment by providing the required financial and logistics support.

Kadré Desire Ouédraogo, ECOWAS Commission President, told the meeting that the Commission has already disbursed more than $4.5 million to the affected member states and through the West African Health Organisation, WAHO, the ECOWAS specialised health agency, in collaboration with the AU and the African Development Bank, deployed 116 trained civilian health workers to the most affected countries.

The CCDS meeting was called at the instance of regional leaders who at their November 6, extraordinary session in Accra urged member states to contribute military personnel and logistics to enhance response capacities, support medical staff in the field and participate in the construction of additional treatment centres and ensure security.

At the opening of the meeting, the chairman warned that the deadly virus “if not checked has the potential of impeding development in our region.” Admiral Quashie said the meeting will discuss presentations on the Deployment Plan for the fight against Ebola and pledges by Member States for deployment of military medical personnel in the fight.

Also, Ouédraogo said the spread of the disease “has come at a huge cost to the affected countries in particular and the ECOWAS region as a whole and had impacted seriously on many sectors, including health, agriculture, education, peace and human security as well as humanitarian and social sectors.”

John Mahama, president, Ghana

In addition, the Nigerian Government in collaboration with the Commission is to train another set of 140 health personnel from ECOWAS member states to support the fight against the Ebola epidemic which has claimed some 7,000 lives from the more than 17,000 reported cases mainly in the region.

“The ECOWAS Commission recognised every effort by our partners and encourages them to continue in their relentless efforts to stamp out the virus,” President Ouédraogo said in the address red on his behalf by Daniel Eklu, director of Humanitarian and Social Affairs.

Declaring the CCDS meeting open, Benjamin Kunbuor, Ghana’s defence minister, represented by Alex Segbefia, his deputy, expressed his optimism that the “highest Military Command” would address the security and deployment of military medical personnel to the most affected countries.

He also outlined the leadership role being played by Ghana and President John Dramani Mahama in the fight against Ebola, with the United Nations locating its mission for Ebola Emergency Response, UNMEER in Accra. The CCDS Accra meeting comes on the heels of the deployment of ECOWAS volunteer health workers to the three most affected countries – Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone – after training in Accra.

Within the context of the regional response initiatives against Ebola, President Ouédraogo visited Togo on December 4, to meet with President Faure Essozimna Gnassingbe on the implementation of the regional Roadmap for the defeat of the Ebola epidemic in the region

The November 6, Extraordinary Summit appointed the Togolese leader to supervise the Ebola response and eradication process encapsulated in the regional Roadmap, and also endorsed the Regional Integrated Operational Plan for Response to Ebola, having already set up a Solidarity Fund to deal with the disease.

Ouédraogo and President John Dramani Mahama of Ghana and chairman of the Authority of ECOWAS heads of state and government, have also paid solidarity visits to the three Member States.

The deployment of military personnel will boost the regional response initiatives and complement the support of development partners in the fight against the latest Ebola outbreak, the worst in recent history.

— Dec. 22, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT


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