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AU to Deploy Second Wave of Health Professionals in Ebola Fight

A health worker adjusts protective gear at a Doctors Without Borders' Ebola treatment unit in Conakry, Guinea. (VOA / Carol Guensburg)
A health worker adjusts protective gear at a Doctors Without Borders' Ebola treatment unit in Conakry, Guinea. (VOA / Carol Guensburg)

The deputy chairman of the African Union Commission says more than 200 medical professionals will be deployed Thursday to the three West African countries battling the Ebola outbreak.

Erastus Mwencha says the AU is committed to sending at least 1,000 trained health workers by the end of the year to help in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

The group of 200 workers will join an earlier contingent of 100 that was deployed equally in the three affected countries, according to Mwencha.

“The latest contingent, which would be flagged off [Thursday] hopefully, is from Nigeria. Over 200 who are going to join the group that is already there to support those governments and the people of those countries to fight Ebola,” said Mwencha.

Reports suggest the Ebola outbreak is still raging in Sierra Leone despite efforts to contain the virus. The World Health Organization estimates that Ebola has killed over 6,000 people, almost all of them in the three West African nations.

Mwencha expressed concern that the international community’s response to help fight the disease has been slow.

He said the pace of the response from governments and the international community picked up, however, after experts predicted more than a million people could be infected by early next year.

“If you look at what is on the ground, in Liberia the situation has stabilized thanks to the efforts of the government and the international community that has supported. In Guinea the rate of infection has gone down. It is only in Sierra Leone where we have a few pockets where we have still infection escalating, but even that there is a lot of efforts to try and contain it,” he said.

Mwencha said the African Union is coordinating efforts with the private sector as part of its commitment to contain the outbreak.

“The private sector in one sitting pledged $30 million. Some of this money is what we are using for this contingent that is being sent tomorrow, the rest of it of course for other contingents,” said Mwencha.

“The telecommunication companies launched an SMS [text message] to fight Ebola where ordinary citizens would be able to send one dollar, [or] five cents, 20 cents as their contributions to fight Ebola. So there is commitment as you can see from government level, at corporate level [and] at individual citizens’ level, so Africa is very much committed,” he said.

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