The Chairman of ECOWAS, President John Dramani Mahama, has bemoaned the situation where families are rejecting children orphaned by the Ebola virus disease in countries affected by the epidemic.
He said in Liberia, for example, where more than 2000 new orphans had been recorded, families were rejecting the children while orphanages had also declared them unwelcome because of the stigma attached to the disease.
Addressing the opening session of a two-day extraordinary summit of ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government on Ebola in Accra yesterday, President Mahama said adults who had survived the disease were also unable to return to their homes because of the fear of infecting others with the virus.
Mr Mahama said the picture was symptomatic of the havoc the disease was wreaking in the three most affected countries in West Africa.
The summit focused mainly on Ebola, but the West African leaders also discussed the political situation in Burkina Faso.
Need for a shift
Although statistics were crucial in addressing situations such as the Ebola disease, Mr Mahama said, the time had come for a shift of emphasis to taking a critical look at the suffering that was written on the faces of victims.
The World Health Organisation has reported for instance that cases of Ebola have reached 13,567 with more than 4,000 deaths.
But, the ECOWAS Chairman said, "we have become too familiar with these figures while very little emphasis is placed on the terrible pain and agony patients go through”.
He stated that tackling the pain and agony associated with the disease would provide strong grounds for the world to appreciate how crucial it was to assist the affected nations to deal with the epidemic.
"We must talk about Ebola not simply from the head but also from the heart," he added.
Pandemic breaks barriers
Pandemics, he said, were not peculiar to any specific country, explaining that "when it comes to the occurrence of a pandemic, every nation is vulnerable".
He said giving the fact that Ebola had not only crossed borders but even oceans to affect countries was a testimony to the fact that everyone was at risk.
The United States and Spain, which are advanced nations, have both recorded cases.
Mr Mahama expressed satisfaction about improvement in global response to the disease but indicated that more needed to be done.
He said in the discussion of Ebola, too much premium was placed on tangible items given out to victims.
He, however, said the effects of Ebola were far-reaching and that there were intangibles that also needed to be addressed.
The ECOWAS Chairman stated that Ebola was threatening to destroy the economies of the three countries and warned of its ramifications on other West Africa countries, since the economies of the countries in the sub-region were connected.
The President of the ECOWAS Commission, Mr Desire Kadre Ouedraogo, gave an assurance that the commission would not relent until Ebola was defeated.
He urged West African countries that were yet to redeem their pledges to the ECOWAS Ebola Fund to do so without any further delay.
The United Nations Secretary General's special representative to West Africa, Dr Mohammed Ibn Chambas, who read a statement from his boss, Mr Ban Ki-moon, commended President Mahama for the tremendous work he was doing in the fight against Ebola.
Source: Daily Graphic
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