Printable Page Headline News   Return to Menu - Page 1 2 3 5 6 7 8 13
 
 
Africans Worst Responders to Ebola     10/31 06:01

   The head of Africa's continental body did not get to an Ebola-hit country 
until last week -- months after alarm bells first rang and nearly 5,000 deaths 
later.

   JOHANNESBURG (AP) -- The head of Africa's continental body did not get to an 
Ebola-hit country until last week --- months after alarm bells first rang and 
nearly 5,000 deaths later.

   Pledges to deploy 2,000 African health workers have remained largely that 
--- promises.

   No African countries are on the United Nations list of contributors to fight 
the epidemic.

   The E-word did not even figure on the agenda of a session on peace and 
security at the Pan-African Parliament in South Africa last week --- more than 
a month after the U.N. Security Council declared the Ebola outbreak a "threat 
to international peace and security."

   Angry legislators from Sierra Leone and Liberia got up to protest. "They 
said as far as they are concerned, nobody wants to talk about Ebola," said 
Jeggan Grey-Johnson, a governance expert who watched the session.

   "They said countries like Liberia feel totally abandoned by the rest of 
Africa and shut off from the rest of the continent," he told The Associated 
Press.

   With few exceptions, African governments and institutions are offering only 
marginal support as the continent faces its most deadly threat in years, once 
again depending on the international community to save them.

   Ebola "caught us by surprise," the chairwoman of the 53-nation African 
Union, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, said this week at a meeting with the U.N. 
secretary-general and the World Bank president in Ethiopia.

   "With the wisdom of hindsight, our responses at all levels - continental, 
global and national - were slow, and often knee-jerk reactions that did not 
always help," she said.

   She is a medical doctor from South Africa, where mining magnate Patrice 
Motsepe Tuesday announced he has donated $1 million to the fight against Ebola 
in Guinea, where the outbreak started.

   Motsepe's gift, the largest donation by far from any African individual, 
came after the World Food Program lashed out at China's billionaires, saying 
their contributions lagged behind their companies' huge economic interests in 
the mineral-rich region. Motsepe's office said his company has no interests in 
any of the countries where Ebola is raging out of control --- Guinea, Sierra 
Leone and Liberia.

   "Ebola is first and foremost our problem," the president of the African 
Development Bank, Donald Kaberuka, told a business forum in Brussels this 
month. "Before relying on international aid, we must first encourage Africans 
to take action."

   The African Development Bank is the second largest institutional contributor 
to the U.N. fund to fight Ebola, second only to the World Bank, having given 
$45.4 million and promised another $17.4 million.

   By contrast, the African Union has made an "uncommitted pledge" of just 
$700,000. Africa's equivalent of the Organization of America States, it is the 
body many believe should have taken the lead from the start.

   The WHO identified the first Ebola case in Guinea on March 21; on March 30 
the virus crossed the border into Liberia; Sierra Leone reported its first two 
cases on May 30. On June 20, with some 330 recorded deaths, Doctors Without 
Borders warned that the outbreak was "totally out of control."

   Yet it was only on Sept. 20 that the first team of 30 military and civilian 
volunteers were deployed by a newly designated African Union Support to the 
Ebola Outbreak in West Africa. Most costs for that mission are being paid by 
the U.S. and other governments.

   Jacob Enoh Eben, spokesman for the AU chairwoman, said more than 2,000 
volunteers have been pledged to date: 1,000 from Congo, 600 from the East 
African Community, 500 from Ethiopia and 506 from Nigeria.

   But he said they still need to know "when the first of these pledges will 
materialize."

   Those promised volunteers are only a tiny fraction of the number needed to 
stem the outbreak. The European Union said this week it is looking to put 
40,000 local and European workers into place in the affected countries.

   Uganda and Congo, which both have experienced Ebola outbreaks in the past, 
already have medical teams deployed in Liberia, under contract to WHO and not 
funded by their governments.

   It is difficult to say how many Africans are deployed on the front lines of 
the Ebola battle.

   In Uganda, Dr. Anthony Mbonye, the commissioner for community health 
services at Uganda's Health Ministry, said he believes up to 40 Ugandan health 
workers are on the ground but that most traveled privately. He said the 
Ministry of Health had officially approved the deployment of about 10 doctors 
to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.

   South Africa has been the most responsive African country and has budgeted 
$3.2 million, according to the Department of Health. That includes funding for 
a mobile testing lab operating in Sierra Leone since August.

   The continental body's lack of a robust response "showed the fragility of 
our African Union, so heavily dependent on the international community to 
rescue us from catastrophe," said Isata Kabia, a Sierra Leonean legislator at 
the Pan-African Parliament.

   "We cannot blame the WHO for their lack of knowledge; we can't blame the EU 
for lack of interest," she told The Associated. "But I think the AU should not 
only have led the response but also the requests to the international 
community."


(KA)


 
Copyright DTN. All rights reserved. Disclaimer.
Powered By DTN