West african health minister convened in Monrovia on emergency health meeting. Gambia ban flights from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea for fear of Ebola virus.

22 Apr

West African Health Ministers convened in Monrovia for a 15th Ordinary meeting coincidentally at the time Ebola epidemic raging havoc in west coast of Africa with a pence sting in Republic of Guinea, a little spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone[ though in Sierra Leone no confirmed cases, only suspected symptoms].

The ECOWAS health ministers convened in Monrovia on a normal and usual ordinary session to critically look into health achievements of various member states and at the same time highlight on binding policies and reinvigoration of existing ones. In a usual platter of order, sitting head of state of the host country addresses the meeting, so was the president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia. In her address to the delegation, she detested what she considered as the declining contribution of International partners towards the health sector in West Africa, a situation she said is a daunting task for the post war recovery country like Liberia:

The added challenge that we recognize today is the declining contribution from international partners; this is a realty and this is clear that if our country, Liberia is to achieve Universal Health Coverage, we must go to work to build sustainable health financing system through domestic financing for the our health sector

President Sirleaf continued by saying to achieve this daunting task, particularly in Liberia where there are multiple needs of a reconstruction country, the realization will be difficult. The president also uses the occasion to highlight the emerging West Africa major problem of “EBOLA” virus which she said her country is in need of funds to combat the deadly virus.

In presenting the health report chart of Liberia despite the declining contribution of International partners, the president said Liberia is working hard to improve the health sector

We are working to improve the health and Social Welfare status of our population on an equitable basis in the face of major challenges.

In the Universal health coverage according to the president, is a system where people will not have to die, simply because they are poor, the system also pledges a mechanism of continued access to health care they may be in need of without having to pay up-front fees.

At the moment in Liberia all health services to the rural areas are rendered free of charge, though not at the quality level one may want, but rural dwellers knows now that they could access health services without shying away because of lack of money. In all these scored success, World Health Organization [WHO] has been commended extensively for immense contribution.

However, As the meeting of ECOWAS health ministers were in progress, the West African state of Gambia has unilaterally impose ban on all aircraft from Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone to Banjul following reports of Ebola outbreak in the three countries. The Gambia president Yahya Jammeh in a presidential decree banned the Banjul private airline-“Gambian Bird” which fly’s Dubia, via Accra through Roberts field [Liberia], Lungi [Freetown] and Dakar before ending the voyage at Banjul suffers pinches of the ban freshly imposed by the Gambian strongman.

The African Voices in-country sources in Banjul quoted the president’s order as saying the decision to ban flights from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea to Banjul is

in line with Gambia’s efforts to prevent its citizens from contracting the dreaded Ebola pandemic”.

Since the demise of the sub-regional carrier Air Afrique in the early ‘90s and the fast disintegration of smaller airlines that attempted filling the void, Gambia Bird appeared as a new hope for travelers, especially business people in the Mano River Union countries who depend on the airline to easily shuttle huge volumes of goods and commodities.

President Jammeh, who has metamorphosed into a seeming autocrat since the seize of power in 1994 putsch, took the decision rightly for Gambia, but apparently without consultations with leaders of countries targeted by his ban. In a related sources for African Voices from Kotoka international airport in Accra, Ghana where Gambia Bird begins the Atlantic west coast journey has indicated a looming chaos as strict observance of the ban on airlines from the three countries from landing in Banjul has already left hundreds of passengers stranded across the sub-region as the Gambian Civil Aviation Management affirmed president Jammesh’s instruction to turn down flights coming from Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. Due to the recent ban, a report says that many travelers to Gambia have compelled to use land routes to Gambia via its neighboring countries.

Pundits in Gambia are in a usual wonderland on why all decrees issued by Jammeh are executed without weighing potential economic and political implications, including relations with neighboring countries. Gambia being a country virtually surrounded by Senegal, perhaps is following the lead from Dakar, who slammed her borders down with Guinea where the deadly Ebola Virus was reported early in February. In Liberia Ebola death toll has risen to 15, accounting more of the health workers. Government though has said with the help of the international partners, the virus has been contained.

By Jacob Eagan Bright
African Voices, Monrovia, Liberia

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