AU Chair Lobbies for Flight Resumption to Ebola Affected Countries

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The Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Madam Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, disclosed yesterday that she has been working behind the scene to ensure that regional and continental airlines resume flight to Ebola affected countries.

The AUC boss said the outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease has taken a hard toll on the affected countries in every sector, especially their economies, which for Liberia and Sierra Leone were just beginning to rebuild after devastating conflicts.

Madam Dlamini Zuma, who is also the wife of South African President, Jacob Zuma, made these comments in the Foyer of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs when she along with President Sirleaf addressed a joint press conference in Monrovia, during a solidarity visit she paid to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and the people of Liberia.

The AU Commission Chairperson noted that she was happy to be in Liberia, an opportunity she would also use to exchange views about the Ebola crisis, which would put the AU in a position to prevent the outbreak of similar infectious diseases in the future.

Madam Dlamini Zuma, who earlier served the South Africa Government as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Health, told newsmen that she was frustrated by the action of some African countries to isolate the affected countries, something she said was not in line with African solidarity.

It would be recalled several airlines, some owned by African states, including Kenya Airways, banned flights from coming to Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone for what they termed as fear of passengers from the countries transporting the virus to their countries.

Even West African neighbors such as Ivory Coast and Senegal along with South Africa, where the AUC boss comes from, closed their borders to citizens of affected countries, a move that was heavily protested by the Liberian government and some internationally prominent individuals.

She said bans imposed by airline owners and other countries, especially those on the African continent, is worrisome, looking at the implications that could such bans could have on these countries that are already going through a lot with the outbreak of the virus.

Madam Dlamini Zuma, however, indicated that modalities are being worked out to ensure that airlines resume their normal activities; a development that urgently help affected countries in the recovery processes after the virus has been contained.

“We have been working behind the scene talking to member states and airlines to see how we can get regional and continental airlines flying back to the Ebola affected countries.”

The South African diplomat further indicated, however, that there are some constraints that need to be addressed in order for the resumption of flight to these states.

“We are actually in talks with the airlines but they are saying that the problems are not with them but with other countries on the African continent.”

“The airlines are saying that countries on the continent should be talked to because they are the ones who refused flights from these affected countries, from entering their countries. They are also asking us for the affected countries to put in place proper, adequate and efficient and rigorous screening infrastructures. So these are some of the constraints that we are going through now,” she said.

Meanwhile Dr. Zuma lauded Liberians for what she termed as their resilience, strength and courage in fighting the deadly Ebola virus which is now stabilizing.

She said from the onset of the outbreak, the AU tried and mobilized, and continues to mobilize human resources that would help in containing the virus. “We have ensured that a small team of health workers from the AU are on the ground in the three countries to help in containing the further spread of the disease,” she said.

President Sirleaf, for her part, noted that the visit of Madam Dlamini Zuma, who is the first female Chairperson of the AU Commission, would add further impetus to a fight that has already placed Liberia at an advantageous position.

President Sirleaf lauded Madam Dlamini Zuma for the level of support to Liberia and its neighbors since the outbreak of the virus.

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