Ebola: Believe it or not, the good news

2014-10-26 15:00

Yes, there is good news on Ebola. Nigeria and Senegal have been declared Ebola-free. This is a reflection of good governance. Nigeria learnt from a previous polio outbreak to lock down a breakout to prevent a pandemic.

It did so by issuing a presidential decree that allowed the country’s officials to track and hospitalise the people who were infected.

This is a great example of quick thinking and displays good political will. Nigeria has a very good system of contact tracing – it is able to quickly pinpoint anyone who has been exposed to Ebola, and to test and isolate them.

In Senegal, Ebola was beaten by good contact-finding systems, the coordination between government and international agencies, and nongovernmental organisations.

What does this teach us? Good governance and good governing systems are vital if infectious diseases have to be beaten.

In the epicentre of the Ebola storm – in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone – high growth rates mask underdevelopment in these nations.

None of the three has health systems that can withstand the deadly impact of the most dangerous Ebola outbreak. But there was good news from the Liberian capital of Monrovia. The rate of infections appears to be abating as the sounds of ambulance sirens grow scarcer. We can only pray.

What lessons can be learnt from the outbreak? The African Union (AU) is supposed to be quick and nimble – the antithesis of its predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity. It failed on Ebola.

The AU got into gear for the first time this week when its chairperson, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, visited the affected nations. For many, it was too little too late and the AU now has to work out ways to better manage these pandemics.

And there will be more work to do to ensure that the Ebola outbreak does not result in a new wave of stigma and prejudice that Africans around the globe will have to face.

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