Statement by the African Union Commission Chairperson, HE Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma to the High level Meeting on Ebola Response

African Union [to 27 September 2014]

Statement by the African Union Commission Chairperson, HE Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma to the High level Meeting on Ebola Response
UNGA, New York. 25 September 2014
…The current Ebola outbreak in parts of West Africa is unprecedented, both in terms of the region where it is occurring and the number of infections and deaths. Its occurrence in countries that have just emerged from conflicts and are still rebuilding their public health systems, as well as public trust and social cohesion, makes this a huge burden. It has a severe impact on health workers and women, who are at the frontline of the disease in these countries. It also adversely affects children, who are often left orphaned, with no families to take care of them.

Our coordinated and urgent responses to the crisis is therefore necessary: to provide the three countries with financial assistance, with equipment, protective clothing, mobile laboratories and other facilities, to be able to track and contain the disease, and to provide treatment to the sick in a secure environment. Most important, as a result of the severe impact on health workers in these countries, they require health personnel (doctors, technicians, clinicians, nurses) that can help with the immediate and urgent interventions.

Many organizations have shown their solidarity by being in the frontline of efforts in these countries, and we must here single out the medical professionals and health workers especially from Médecins Sans Frontières, the Red Cross, Samaritan’s Purse, as well as the US Centre for Disease Control. The African Union Ebola Outbreak in West Africa (ASEOWA), has started deploying the first team of medical and other volunteer personnel from various African countries to Liberia. This includes medical specialists from countries such as Uganda and the DRC that have dealt with Ebola before. We shall be sending further teams to Sierra leone and Guine, but it is yet a drop in the oceans, we need hundreds more volunteers.

Secondly, we have to ensure that countries in the neighbourhood and other regions have systems in place to prevent and trace infection. The ECOWAS and African Ministers of Health, working with the World Health Organisations, since their first meetings in April this year, have already begun to coordinate national and regional efforts in this regard.

Thirdly, the disease in its current manifestations also place economic burdens on the countries concerned, ranging from fiscal strains with money having to be diverted from other causes to fight the disease, restrictions on informal and cross-border trade, as well as on agriculture. Our comprehensive measures therefore have to also look at this economic dimension and we thank the World Bank and the African Development Bank for their efforts in this regard, but we should all do more in this regard.
The recent Emergency session of the African Union Executive Council n

ted that we should avoid compounding the burden on the affected states, by taking measures whose impact may lead to worse consequences than the disease itself. It was in this context that the Emergency session called on Member states to lift all travel bans on flights and passengers from the affected countries, and to cooperate to put in place measures at borders to ensure screening. We thank those countries who have already lifted the travel ban, and urged those who have not done so to recommence flights to these countries…