Kaleidoscope of the International Conference on Africa’s Fight Against Ebola, Malabo, Equatorial Guinea

The recently concluded International Conference on Africa’s fight against Ebola held in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea focuses on Africa helping Africans in the Ebola Recovery and Reconstruction and attracted AU Foreign Affairs Ministers, Ministers of Health, Heads of States.

The conference attracted AU Foreign Affairs Ministers, Ministers of Health, Health professionals, and representatives from ADB, World Bank, UNOCHA, WHO, UNECA and other development partners and NGOs. The high profiled team from Sierra Leone led by President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma includes the Minister of Health and Sanitation, Dr. Abu Bakarr Fofanah, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Sarian Kamara, cabinet Ministers and other personalities.

Int ConHis Excellency Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma

In the conference room at Sipopo, Equatorial Guinea, statements were made by the Heads of State of the three Ebola affected countries Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. His Excellency Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, His Excellency Alpha Konde, President of the Republic of Guinea, and His Excellency Joseph Nyumah Bollan, Vice President of the Republic of Liberia. After the presentation of the outcomes statement by the Commissioner for Social Affairs, African Union Commission, Mustapha S. Kaloko, President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma moved the vote of thanks to the host country for the successful organization of the conference and for the contribution on behalf of the three countries.

Int Con1Sierra Leone’s Minister of Health and Sanitation, Dr. Abu Bakarr Fofanah

Minister of Health and Sanitation, Dr. Abu Bakarr Fofanah participated in the Ministerial Meeting as Chairperson whilst Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Sarian Kamara was appointed Chair for the Experts Meeting.

Int Con2Sierra Leone’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Sarian Kamara

Presentations on the Recovery and Reconstruction:

Sierra Leone: Dilating on the country’s health system strengthening following the outbreak the country witnessed declining performance of the economy. Lessons learned include community engagement and participation, adoption of simple hygiene procedures, utilization of technologies of information and communication to contact people in health emergencies, necessity to diversify economy to avoid shocks in specific areas, accountability streamlining of expenditure to achieve cost effectiveness in health service delivery, and socio-cultural issues such as deceased body may impede execution of well-established health protocols.

The Ebola epidemic in West Africa, affecting mainly Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia is a first time disaster in the region and the biggest Ebola epidemic in terms of size, and an impact the world has ever faced. Sierra Leone’s Short-Term Achievements: All national hospitals reopened and started delivering services to the public, Treating a total of 16,000 HIV infected persons brought back to the treatment programme, Making treatment available at diagnostic treatment centres, and sustained the Ebola services through building capacity and resilience.

On financing, Sierra Leone presented a budget line for the next six months in line with the funding gap of USD35 million for the next three years, Request for debt cancellation to reduce dependency on external funding as it is not predictable hence the need to domestic resource mobilization. Sierra Leone experiencing 23 percent decrease of GDP due to the closing of mines because of the Ebola outbreak. Against this backdrop, the need to step up involvement of the private sector to bridge the financing gap was also highlighted.

In all three presentations, the following challenges were outlined. Nutrition as the main public health issue, water, hygiene and sanitation as a prerequisite to fight the epidemics, modalities of the implementation of the Recovery and Reconstruction Plan Budget to finance the recovery plans, and building a strong health systems the ultimate goal.

Int Con3The High table 4th from L-R: Sierra Leone’s Health Minister, Dr. Abu Bakarr Fofanah

What Ministers of the affected countries identified as priority areas

Following the presentations by the three affected countries, the Ministers identified key priority areas: Strengthening the health systems, Getting to zero-elimination of new Ebola infection, Improved management and decentralization of health service delivery, sustained partnership until zero Ebola infection attained at regional level, Debt cancellation in the three Ebola affected countries, Trans boundary collaboration as a fundamental tool to affectively curb the infection, Sustain increase domestic financing to invest in primary health system, Strengthen prevention and surveillance, Involvement of the private sector, and the development of strong cohort of community health workers.

Recommendations

The Ebola epidemic in West Africa is not only the largest, it is also the most complex as it has affected mainly countries affected by civil war with very weak public health systems and other basic social service delivery systems. The number of cases and deaths from this Ebola epidemic is more than all previous Ebola epidemics combined. Since Ebola discovery in 1976 till December 2013, the world experienced 23 outbreaks, 2388 human cases including 1590 deaths. The 2014 current Ebola epidemic in West Africa, according to WHO June 24, 2015 sitrep states that 27443 human cases including 112017 deaths are yet to be updated.

The Africa helping Africans in the Ebola Recovery and Reconstruction Malabo Conference having assessed the loss of human life and suffering and the socio-economic impact, came out with recommendations based on the needs of the three affected countries to be addressed by the member states of the African Union. The conference recommended human resources for health, provision of medical equipment, training of health workers in various medical field and capacity building, strengthening health infrastructure, strengthening infection and prevention control, establishment of regional hubs to support country hospitals, sustainable provision of medicines and supplies, and bridging short term financial gap.

Other highlights of the conference include meeting of the Ministers of Health as a working group of the Specialized Technical Committee of Health Population and drug control on the creation of the Africa Centre for Disease Control (CDC), Chaired by Dr. Abu Bakarr Fofanah, Sierra Leone’s Minister of Health and Sanitation, and the Experts Meeting chaired by Sierra Leone’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Sarian Kamara.

At the Sipopo Conference Centre Media Briefing Room in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea a high level press conference was held targeting four panelists: Sierra Leone’s Minister of Health, Guinea Health Minister, Liberia Minister of Health and the Commissioner for Social Affairs, African Union Commission. Journalists also participated in the high level press conference.

Next edition I shall be reporting on the MRU Midwifery Response, Building Resilience and supporting recovery through integrated and strengthening midwifery also chaired by Sierra Leone’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Sarian Kamara. This was a side event targeting MRU Secretary General, Dr. Saran Daraba Kaba, Sierra Leone’s Health Minister, Dr. Abu Bakarr Fofanah, the President Liberia Medical and Dental Council, Guinea’s Health Minister, Dr. Colonel Remy Lamah and the African Union Director of Social Affairs, Ambassador Dr. Olawale Maiyegun.