Former Liberia Finance Minister Amara Konneh writes
Don’t Panic: the MRU countries are better experienced and prepared to fight Ebola
The Ebola outbreak in the Mano River Basin in 2014 exposed many weaknesses in the sub region’s public health surveillance, preparedness, and response systems. That experience highlighted the urgency of strengthening each national system and harmonizing all for regional impact. In response, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and her colleagues, Alpha Condé of Guinea and President Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone jointly spearheaded resource mobilization efforts to assess, restructure and strengthen our systems.
My team and I led the Ministerial and the technical meetings in Conakry, drafting the proposal and presentation on our plans and the support we needed. With our presidents’ approval, we presented those plans to the EU Commission and Parliament in Brussels, the US Government, and the World Bank in Washington, DC. These and other traditional partners responded to our call for help.
The World Bank stepped up with the West Africa Regional Diseases Surveillance Systems Enhancement (REDISSE) project, among other initiatives. REDISSE supports nine ECOWAS countries, including the three affected MRU states. All three countries have disease surveillance and response centers staffed with trained health workers who are capable of minimizing the spread of Ebola.
In addition, Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone established National Public Health Institutions (or national CDCs), supervised by WAHO and the WHO. Aligned with other WHO health security strengthening efforts, these national CDCs focus on country and regional integrated disease surveillance, preparedness, and response activities.
Because these institutions and systems exist, the Mano River sub-region is far better prepared for Ebola now than it was five years ago. We have no excuses – not resources, not capacity, not anything – for allowing its spread to persist.
We now know the keys to success in such crises – coordination and information sharing among the MRU countries and their partners; transparency in reporting to our citizens and promoting their awareness of preventive measures; building trust and a sense of ownership of this fight among all stakeholders, including and especially the public. Now let’s activate these keys, put Ebola back in the jar and seal it shut.
I’ll close by sharing a lesson we learned the easy way: the key to success is leadership and because we kept the petty politics out of the fight, we won the battle with relative speed. Our leaders have provided leadership on COVID-19 so far and I’m confident they will continue to do so on this emerging Ebola crisis. I wish GOL and MRU the best. Stay safe!