‘W’Africa better prepared to contain future Ebola outbreaks’
The World Health Organisation (WHO)’s Regional Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti has said that West Africa is better prepared to tackle future outbreaks of Ebola.
In an exclusive interview with VOA, Moeti noted that Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea are now able to respond more quickly to emergencies because of upgrades to their surveillance, laboratory and health care systems.
Moeti became head of WHO’s regional office for Africa in February 2015 at the height of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. As the WHO’s chief troubleshooter in the region, she told VOA she knew she had to do whatever was necessary to stop the spread of this fatal disease.
Ebola had killed more than 11,000 people in the three most heavily affected West African countries by the time WHO declared the transmission of the Ebola virus virtually over at the end of last year.
Although it acknowledged that the epidemic was no longer out of control, the WHO warned the countries to remain vigilant as flare-ups of the disease were likely to continue for some time.
“We have had a very prolonged last leg of getting to zero in this outbreak and we are not there yet,” said Moeti. But, she added that Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea have greatly improved their ability to respond to Ebola and have proved this in their skillful management of the occasional flare-ups of the disease.
“They will able, when they get an unexpected case in these last few months to respond and detect it relatively early, follow-up the contacts and contain the spread. So, for me, that is one of the best outcomes of this tragic situation in West Africa,” said Moeti.
But, she cautioned that all the improvements made in infrastructure, in response systems, and in skills training must be sustained. This, she said, required the continued support of the international community.
Moeti stressed that the funding and expertise that had poured into West Africa during the Ebola epidemic must hold. “I am very hopeful that some of the commitments that were made by the donors during the time when these countries were talking about their recovery actually do materialise,” she said.