The World Health Organization’s regional director for Africa is urging West Africa nations to prepare now for the likelihood of a future outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus.
Dr. Matshidiso Moeti said Friday the current epidemic should serve as a wake-up call to spur regional officials into action.
Saying she is pleased to see progress being made in bringing West Africa's Ebola epidemic to an end, she notes that it may be several months before the virus is completely gone from the region.
“The Ebola virus is in the environment, [so] another outbreak could happen," she said. "We are hoping to take the initiative of global concern, and the interest of partners to provide support and financing for preparedness, to help not only these three countries, but other countries in the region."
Moeti took over as the first female regional director for Africa on February 1. She replaced Luis Gomes Sambo, who was widely criticized for his lackluster tackling of the Ebola epidemic in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
Moeti cites a number of priorities for improving health in Africa. These include working toward universal health coverage and getting health systems in better shape.
“Another area of emphasis will be addressing the social determinants of health and putting some emphasis on prevention, because we think, for our region, this would be a smart investment on the part of ministries, although we recognize it is not an easy area," she said. "And it will be an area of learning for them as well as for us."
Moeti says Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea will require disciplined vigilance and increased surveillance to bring Ebola cases down to zero.
She also says WHO will remain alert and ramp up measures in all three countries so the virus is not imported across borders.