African Union meets for Ebola crisis talks

2014-09-08 12:30
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. (File: Sapa)

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. (File: Sapa)

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Addis Ababa - African Union chiefs held an emergency meeting Monday to hammer out a continent-wide strategy to deal with the Ebola epidemic, which has killed over 2,000 people in west Africa.

"Fighting Ebola must be done in a manner that doesn't fuel isolation or lead to the stigmatisation of victims, communities and countries," AU commission chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, speaking at the opening of the meeting.

Dlamini-Zuma told the executive council of the 54-member body, meeting in bloc's headquarters in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, of the urgent need to "craft a united, comprehensive and collective African response" to the outbreak.

The meeting also aimed to discuss "the suspension of flights, and maritime and border closures", according to an AU statement.

Social and economic impact

"We should ensure that Ebola does not spread to other countries by implementing effective procedures to deter, isolate and treat those who may be infected, and protect the rest of the population," Dlamini-Zuma said.

"At the same time we must be careful not to introduce measures that may have more... social and economic impact than the disease itself."

With border restrictions hampering trade, food prices are rising, she said.

The death toll from the Ebola epidemic - which is spreading across west Africa, with Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone the worst hit - has topped 2 000, of nearly 4 000 people who have been infected, according to the World Health Organisation.

'Weakness of public health systems'

The crisis has highlighted the "weakness of public health systems", Dlamini-Zuma said, noting "severe shortage" of health workers, and mourning the tragedy of so many who have contracted Ebola while supporting others.

The crisis has stirred a fierce debate about how the world should have responded after first reports trickled out from some of the world's poorest countries with dilapidated medical infrastructure.

"Women bear the brunt of this disease, as they are the one who care for the sick, for children and family members and who prepare bodies for burial," Dlamini-Zuma said.

"We must face this challenge with determination."

Read more on:    au  |  who  |  nkosazana dlamini zuma  |  guinea  |  sierra leone  |  liberia  |  ebola  |  health  |  west africa  |  africa

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