By State House Communications Unit
President of the Republic of Togo, who doubles as the Ebola Coordinator of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in the fight against the deadly Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), His Excellency Faure Essozimna Gnassingbe Friday 6 February 2015 paid a one day working and solidarity visit to Sierra Leone, as part of his tri-nations tour of Ebola worst hit countries of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.
Welcoming his Togolese counterpart at the Freetown International Airport, Lungi, President Ernest Bai Koroma thanked ECOWAS for their support to eradicate the disease from Sierra Leone, through the construction of treatment and holding centers as well as training health personnel.
“We are now in a situation wherein we can safely say that we are on top of the situation, ” he said, adding that we are on the way to zero new infection, whilst reiterating the significance of intensifying surveillance, contract tracing and social mobilization. President Koroma informed his counterpart that government is now preparing for post-Ebola recovery as well as informing him that government has already announced a date for the reopening of schools.
In this regard, the president noted that government will ensure that the schools and learning institutions are safe before the resumption of school activities.He welcomed the decision of ECOWAS for the appointment of President Gnassingbe as its Ebola point man in the three affected countries and added that government will continue to engage ECOWAS after the visit.His Excellency, President Gnassingbe commended the leadership of President Koroma for his untiring efforts in the fight against Ebola, and sympathized with the country for the dreadful situation it had gone through as a result of the outbreak.
The Togolese president thanked the international community for the support they are giving to the three worst hit countries, and announced that the outbreak in West Africa was also being discussed in New York. He cautioned that the problem should be confined and not allowed to go beyond this point and expressed gratitude to the government for its efforts in addressing the problem by trying to find solutions to overcome it.
He said since he became the ECOWAS Ebola Coordinator he had been in engagements with development partners and the private sector for the resumption of flights to affected countries so that all sanctions imposed on worst hit countries can be lifted.We are encouraged by the support and readiness by development partners to kickstart post Ebola activities, he stated, adding that no sector has been spared in the health crisis. He also observed that Sierra Leone enjoyed sound economic growth even before the Ebola outbreak, and hoped that the economy will soon be rejuvenated after the outbreak.
Giving a detailed synopsis of government and development partners’ response to the epidemic, the Chief Executive Officer National Ebola Response Center (NERC), Major (Rtd) Alfred Palo Conteh recalled that Sierra Leone had her fist Ebola case in May 2014, and there was only one lab with limited number of ambulances, treatment and holding centers. He said the country can now boast of labs and ambulances received from development partners, including the governments of the United Kingdom, the Peoples Republic of China, the United States, European Union and other friends of Sierra Leone.
“I am happy to report that we have turned the curve and the numbers have dwindled, and we are now reporting lower cases in Sierra Leone,” he said, but however noted that the war is not yet over, whilst expressing optimism that with the leadership of President Koroma, the war against ebola will soon come to an end. The NERC CEO said Sierra Leone will not celebrate until Liberia and Guinea are declared Ebola free by the World Health Organization.
A joint communique was signed by both President Koroma and his Togolese counterpart. Immediately following the Guard of Honour, President Gnassingbe departed for Guinea, where he is expected to hold similar talks with President Prof. Alpha Konde on the Ebola situation in his country.