The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Liberia, Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan says while it is understandable that countries not affected by the Ebola outbreak may take measures to protect their citizens, they should heed the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations which do not support travel or trade restrictions on Liberia and other countries hit by the Ebola virus.
The Liberian Foreign Minister has described as disproportionate and exaggerated actions by some African countries to impose both land and air travel restrictions on citizens of countries affected by the outbreak. He further asserted that these exaggerated reactions may only reflect panic and paranoia rather than expert advice relating to empirical realities.
“In these difficult moments in our countries, we expect our African brothers and sisters across the globe to take actions that will complement measures already undertaken by the affected countries with a view to speedily eradicating the disease. Actions grounded primarily in paranoia may, instead of aiding affected countries, lead to blanket stigmatization of citizens from these countries and may make it doubly difficult for affected countries to effectively combat the Ebola disease”, Foreign Minister Ngafuan said.
The Foreign Minister commended the African Union (AU) which will soon dispatch a military medical personnel team to Ebola affected countries including Liberia. The AU team will comprise doctors, professional nurses, infection control officers, social workers, medical data management experts, among others.
While commending all countries, institutions, and individuals that have contributed towards the fight against the Ebola disease in Liberia and other affected countries, Minister Ngafuan also commended all African countries that have already contributed or communicated intentions to contribute to the fight against the disease.
He made specific mention of the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) which has already dispatched a five-member team of medical experts to Liberia. He also commended the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for committing US$500,000 to aid Liberia’s fight against the deadly virus and the Government of the Kingdom of Morocco for continuing flights of Royal Air Maroc (the Moroccan national carrier) to Monrovia and Freetown.
The Minister further called on other African countries to follow the lead of these countries rather than taking actions that are not consistent with expert advice.
The Foreign Minister made these assertions over the weekend when he spoke to a team of foreign journalists in Monrovia.
Recently, WHO through its spokesman Gregory Hartl, was emphatic in its warning against the imposition of air and sea restrictions: “If you try to shut down air travel and sea travel, you risk affecting to a huge extent the economy, people’s livelihoods and their ability to get around without stopping the virus from traveling. You can’t ship goods in. Sometimes these goods are basic staples people need to survive — food and fuel.”
The WHO further emphasized that official border closures would constrain resources to address the epidemic and would not stop all means of travel outside of affected areas.