by Justice Lee Adoboe
ACCRA, Aug. 26 (Xinhua) -- A two-day strategic meeting by health experts from the West African sub-region commenced here Tuesday to plan and review strategies for combating the deadly Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) wreaking havoc in the sub-region.
The meeting, which is a prelude to the extra-ordinary meeting of ministers of health from member-states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to be held here on Thursday under the auspices of Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama, who is also the ECOWAS Chairman.
Opening the meeting, Dr. Victor Asare Bampoe, Ghana's Deputy Minister for Health, stressed that the best approach to curbing the spread of and bringing the disease under control remains effective quarantine, isolation and public education.
"In many areas where outbreaks have been reported, this approach has worked, the deputy health minister stressed, urging the West African nations to strengthen urgently national health sector capacities for early detection, prompt management and rapid containment.
According to him, the World Health Organization (WHO) has observed that countries with strong health systems can quickly contain any imported case using strict infection control measures.
"For countries which have not reported cases, this is the time to step up preparedness. For countries where the disease has taken a hold, a strong and effective public health response is required, " Bampoe added.
He urged the experts to find answers to questions as to why the disease has taken such a long hold on West Africa; does the situation reflect the capabilities of the health systems of the sub-region; is it a human resource issue; and what role West African culture is playing in the spread.
"Our response must also recognize that no infectious disease can be controlled unless communities are informed and empowered to protect themselves," the deputy minister added.
The meeting is being held under the auspices of the West Africa Health Organization (WAHO) with other stakeholders including WHO, UNICEF, and diplomatic missions of some developed countries among others participating.
The Deputy Director-General of the West Africa Health Organization (WAHO), Dr Laurent Assogba, captured the general frustration among citizens of the sub-region that the current EVD outbreak in West Africa is the worst ever in the history of the disease, first identified in 1976.
"You will agree with me that this experts' meeting is very relevant, as I believe this is the start of a new era of successful integration in epidemics control and must be seen as the watershed in curbing the epidemic in our countries," Assogba added.
He expressed the hope that at the end of the meeting the environment would have been created for synergy of action within and between ECOWAS member states, to strengthen implementation of strategies in order to curb the spread of the disease in the sub- region.
The Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) started in Guinea last February, and close to 1,500 people have so far died in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria in what WHO describes as the deadliest outbreak in the history of the disease.