President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has disclosed that her Togolese colleague, President Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé, has been given the task of drawing up a post-Ebola plan for the ECOWAS region.
The Mano River Union (MRU) basin, within the ECOWAS region, is on record as being the hardest hit region since the Ebola virus disease (EVD) was first discovered in 1976 in East Africa.
It is recorded that at least 28,616 probable, suspected and confirmed cases of the virus were reported in the MRU basin. Of this number, 15, 227 were confirmed positive, while 11,310 died. Liberia reported most of the deaths—4,810, while Sierra Leone tallied 3, 956, and Guinea recorded 2,544.
This is almost ten times the number of deaths from all other Ebola epidemics combined. The uncontrolled spread of the disease exposed the shortcomings of the three worst-hit nations’ health care systems, as well as regional and global institutions’ weak capacity for coordination and effective response.
When the disease subsided a bit in 2015, the three presidents of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone—Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Alpha Condé and Ernest Bai Koroma, respectively— met at an European Union-backed conference in Brussels in March 2015 and called for a Marshal Plan to recover from the dire economic consequences of the EVD crisis on their countries.
“The impact of Ebola on our economies has been profound,” President Sirleaf then told the international audience. “The most important long-term response to Ebola therefore rests in plans and strategies for economic recovery,” she added.
The President went as far as saying, “this will require significant resources, even a Marshall Plan,” citing the U.S. aid package that helped Europe rebuild after the devastation of World War II.
However, to now build a robust health system in the West African sub-region, which has more than 20 million inhabitants, President Sirleaf, who thanked ECOWAS for the role it played in helping Liberia to combat the virus 2014, disclosed that the region is interested in working through the President of Togo to develop a post-Ebola program for ECOWAS.
According to President Sirleaf, who is the first Liberian and female to head the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State, the post-Ebola plan is to ensure that healthcare delivery in every country in the region is so developed as to be able to address any infection control and to prevent the type of situation that Liberia experienced in 2014.
She made the disclosure Friday, June 17 when she and the ECOWAS Commission President, Mr. Marcel Alain De Souza, addressed the media in her Foreign Ministry Office.
The President promised Mr. De Souza whatever she can do in consultation with her colleagues to be able to give all the support that he will need to carry on the work of the ECOWAS Commission.
“ECOWAS is important to each and every one of us: in our aim for integration, for accelerating the development for each of our countries and for responding to specific needs such as health,” the Liberian Leader said.
Responding, the ECOWAS Commission President buttressed what President Sirleaf had said and added that a health meeting will be held in Lomé, Togo, where other heads of state will join President Gnassingbé to talk about diseases, including the post-Ebola plan, so that stakeholders can be able to deal with any outbreak in the region, at any time.
Mr. De Souza told journalists that he had come to brief President Sirleaf on some of the major challenges facing the 20 million people of this region, and also to get her direction on said issues.
“In my talks with the President, she stressed that we should get down more working and doing less talking. I assured her that all my colleagues on the Commission are standing by to do all to make her tenure a success; and Liberia will put a stamp on the history of ECOWAS,” he stated.
The World Health Organization (WHO) first declared Liberia free of the Ebola virus transmission on May 9, 2015. The country subsequently experienced a cluster of six Ebola cases in June 2015 and was declared free of transmission again on September 3, 2015. A second cluster of three cases was reported in November 2015, and WHO declared the country free of transmission for the third time on January 14, 2016.