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AU Holds meeting to discuss African response to Ebola outbreak

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By Tesfa-Alem Tekle

September 8, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – The African Union (AU) executive council met on Monday for an emergency meeting in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, amid growing concerns over the worsening Ebola epidemic.

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Doctors without Borders staff remove an Ebola victim at a treatment centre in Guekedou, Guinea, in April (Photo: Seyllou/AFP/Getty Images)

The meeting, which is being held at the bloc’s headquarters, aims to design a continental-wide strategy for combating the deadly virus.

Speaking at the opening of the meeting, AU Commission chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma told the executive council of the 54-member body that measures taken so far to combat Ebola such as banning flights and border closures have stigmatised affected countries and their people.

“Fighting Ebola must be done in a manner that doesn’t fuel isolation or lead to the stigmatisation of victims, communities and countries,” said Dlamini-Zuma.

She said there was an urgent need to “craft a united, comprehensive and collective African response” to the outbreak.

“We should ensure that Ebola does not spread to other countries by implementing effective procedures to detect, isolate and treat those who may be infected and protect the rest of the population from infections,” she said.

Some countries have voiced concern that border closures were affecting trade and the provision of food items, leading to price hikes on goods.

UN representatives have also warned of serious food shortages in the five worst-hit West African countries, which they say is worsening the suffering of the people.

“The economic impact of the Ebola outbreak will be significant,” said Carlos Lopes, executive secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), adding “Ebola can only be tackled through massive investments”.

However, Dlamini-Zuma has warned against introducing preventative measures that could have an adverse socioeconomic impact.

“We must be careful not to introduce measures that place more averse social and economic impacts than the disease itself,” she said.

Meanwhile, AU member states are calling for more financial support to curb the outbreak of the disease, which has claimed the lives of more than 2,000 people this year.

Some 4,000 Ebola cases have been reported so far, with the virus currently having a 50% fatality rate.

(ST)

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