The Senate Chairman on Gender, Health, Social Welfare, Women & Children Affairs, Senator Peter Sonpon Coleman, Thursday, March 27, briefed the Senate Plenary, and informed his colleagues that a budget in the amount of US$1.2 million, has been drawn up to help contain apparent discovery of Ebola virus within the Mano River Union sub-region.
Senator Coleman, who is also a practicing medical doctor, told the Plenary that the decision on the budget was taken Wednesday, during a meeting that brought together Government of Liberia officials and donors, and that people have identified which portion of the budget they will support.
Doctor Coleman said the Ambassador of the European Union (EU) had discussions with the Minister of Health Dr. Walter Gwenigale, and that the request for assistance has been sent to Brussels with the hope that in the next few days, according to the Ambassador, the assistance from the EU will be communicated as it relates to containing the spread of this virus in the sub-region.
“For us as a government, Mr. Pro Tempore and members of the Senate, and members of the Ways and Means Committee, it is important that some initial funding out of this US$1.2 million be provided through the Ministry of Finance, and made available to the Ministry of Health to contain this spread. Our donors are anxious to see what we as a government will do.
"In most of these cases, we always rely on the international community; but I think it is important that an initial contribution comes from the government. It will help to entice the donors to pump in some money. That information needs to be taken seriously by the joint committee of both Houses so that pressure is put on the Minister of Finance to release some funding towards the containment of the spread of this virus,” Dr. Coleman challenged his colleagues.
Up to Wednesday, Senator Coleman said no new cases had been reported. Together with his colleagues, he appealed to the media to be more professional in handling the news content concerning the virus, to avoid creating panic within and outside the country.
However, days after Liberia's Chief Medical Officer, Bernice Dahn, laughed off a question by an Observer reporter as to whether the virus posed a threat to national security, the Mediation and Security Council of ECOWAS, comprising Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defense of the ECOWAS sub-region, has expressed deep concern over the outbreak, which it considers a threat to regional security.
In a communiqué issued by the Mediation and Security Council at the end of its 31st Meeting in Yamoussokro, Cote d’Ivoire on March 25, 2014, the Council underscored the need for a robust regional response in putting a halt to the further spread of the deadly scourge.
The Council called on the President of the ECOWAS Commission, in consultation with the West African Health Organization (WAHO), to take appropriate and swift actions to mobilize the stakeholders and the needed resources to stem the epidemic from the region.
The Council also appealed to the International Community to assist the affected countries in the management of the Ebola epidemic in the region.
Speaking on the issue during the Council’s Meeting, Liberian Foreign Minister Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan and his Guinean counterpart, Lounceny Fall, separately informed the Council of the extent to which the deadly disease has impacted their respective countries and steps that had been taken by their respective governments along with other partners, to contain the outbreak.
Minister Ngafuan, quoting reports from the Liberian Ministry of Health, informed that the Liberian health facilities along the border with Guinea had recorded four deaths of Guineans Ebola victims who had crossed into Liberia for treatment.
The Liberian Foreign Minister further informed the Council that, considering the contagious nature of the Ebola epidemic and the frequent cross-border movements by citizens of both countries for trading and other purposes, it was important that ECOWAS and other international partners moved quickly in assisting Liberia and Guinea in containing the virus.
Meanwhile, the Foreign Minister of Guinea informed the Council that the Government of Guinea has initiated some preliminary measures with a view to preventing the contraction and spread of the Ebola epidemic. These measures include quarantining those diagnosed with the Ebola Haemorraheagic fever; and discouraging the consumption of bats, which are believed to be transmitters of the Ebola virus.