“Ebola Must be Isolated, not the people”
European Union Ebola Coordinator and Commissioner for Humanitarian and Crisis Management, Christos Stylianides has urged countries unaffected by the Ebola Virus Disease not to discriminate against or isolate people of Ebola affected countries, but isolate the disease itself.
Commissioner Stylianides’ statement comes in the wake of isolation and discriminatory measures by many countries including Morocco, Australia and Canada to prevent people of Ebola affected countries from entering their countries.
Speaking at a brief press conference on November 14 at the EU’s Mamba Point office, Mr. Stylianides reiterated that “we want to isolate the disease, not the people. We must not allow fear to dictate our actions. This is the foundation of our commitment and solidarity.”
Commenting further on strategies to curb the disease and take precautionary measures to prevent future outbreaks, the EU Commissioner said now is the time to begin thinking about a plan to build infrastructures, especially the healthcare delivery system on a long-term basis, noting that success cannot be assured without a long-term plan.
“It is essential to provide the necessary resources to reconstruct the health system which was overwhelmed by the Ebola offense. We are committed to help rebuild it,” he assured.
The EU diplomat further assured that Liberia, like other Ebola affected countries in the Mano River Basin, is not alone in the fight against Ebola.
He said EU’s commitment to help affected countries is strong and a long-term one, recalling the union’s total commitment of US$1.2 billion since the outbreak to fight the disease.
In addition to the previous commitment, Mr. Stylianides announced another amount of US$21 million.
In consonance with the Liberian Government and international organizations including the MSF and WHO’s announcement of a drop in the rate of infections, Mr. Stylianides observed that, “In Liberia the nature of the epidemic is changing; we need to be more flexible in our response.”
Considering that complacency may overturn the decline and cause the disease to spread with vigor again, the EU Commissioner warned that we must not lose sight of the threat. He said we must remain on the alert as Ebola remains a “clear and present danger”.
He acknowledged the presence of other international partners in the fight against Ebola and also paid tribute to frontline doctors and nurses who have lost their lives as a result of their humanitarian decision to take the risk in fighting the disease.
Another high profile EU Commissioner, Vytenis Andriukaitis who heads Health and Food Safety, added to his colleague’s view that people in other countries must not discriminate against those in affected countries but must be vigilant without fear to ensure that the disease is contained.
He warned that the virus exists in communities and community dwellers need to be educated on environmental cleanliness and attitude change.
This is not the first time the EU has condemned stigmatization and discrimination against people of and from Ebola affected countries.
It can be recalled that a few months back Deputy Director General for Europe Aid, Marcus Cornaro frowned on those discriminating against West Africans affected by Ebola and said that approach was not the right way to solve the problem.
Others including the president of the African Development Bank, Dr. Donald Kaberuka, condemned the act from the onset of the spread of the disease and said countries cancelling flights and avoiding those of Ebola affected countries were acting without expert advice.
The Government of Liberia through the Foreign Ministry has cried foul against discriminatory and stigmatizing acts by many countries against people from countries affected by Ebola.
Foreign Minister Augustine Ngafuan of late complained that some countries (not named) have cancelled flights to Liberia and put in place harsh measures for Liberians studying and working in those countries.