The African Union through its Commissioner for Social Affairs has stressed the need for coordination in the fight against the Ebola disease in West Africa.
A Foreign Ministry release says Dr Mustapha Sidiki Kaloko made the assertions during separate high level discussions he and his team held with several national and multinational stakeholders in Liberia including President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the Acting Foreign Minister, the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) and the Ministers of Internal Affairs and Gender and Development over the weekend.
Dr. Kaloko who heads a four-man AU delegation says his visit is part of response from the African Union in addressing the Ebola crisis as a follow-up to the meeting of foreign ministers held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in September which gave birth to the AU Support to Ebola Outbreak in West Africa (ASEOWA).
The AU Commissioner told journalists during a press conference held at the Foreign Ministry over the weekend that he had come to emphasize the need for coordination in the midst of several resources pouring towards the direction of the Ebola fight in West Africa.
"During my meeting with the President, one of the issues that we talked about which is very important is the issue of coordination. We have a number of players in the country trying to address the same problems. So, we talked about how we can lay emphasis on the proper ways of managing all these resources in terms of coordinating efforts to have a meaningful approach to the problem that we have at hand on this Ebola crisis", he said in response to a question posed by one of the journalists.
Dr. Kaloko said he also discussed with the President the issue of manpower to man the treatment centers being set up, adding that the AU already has a team of doctors, nurses, epidemiologists and lab technicians that are already on the ground in Liberia serving under ASEOWA.
He continued:"Also part of my visit borders on the issues on border closures, flight cancellations and stigmatization being seen now amongst the countries that are affected by Ebola on the continent. Part of my trip involves going to Abuja in Nigeria to meet with some of the administrators there as far as meeting with ECOWAS and then pass to Ghana to see if we could continue the advocacy that Ghana has been using so much in terms of the border closures and stigmatization and seeing if the issue of flight cancellation could be lifted on the continent."
The AU Commissioner also disclosed that the Union is in the process of drawing up support from member states, assistance in kind and financially too.
He also clarified that ASEOWA is medical-military-civilian mission which doesn't necessarily mean that the Union is sending troops. He said the military personnel are most often used during times of crises based on its logistical strengths because, according to him, the military is always ready, efficient, effective and has the means to manage a response.
"We've found out the usefulness of deploying military personnel when it comes to logistics, planning and emergency assistance. So this actually is the role of the military in ASEOWA ; there's no question of bringing in troops which is not part of our terms of reference", he clarified.
He then disclosed that a team of 100 rotational personnel for ASEOWA will be functional in the affected three countries within the next three months and possibly another set of 100 to be later added.
Earlier, the Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs, Honorable Sylvester Grigsby thanked the AU delegation for identifying with Liberia and the other two most affected Ebola West African countries.
He agreed with Commissioner Kaloko on the issue of stressing coordination and the need to reconsider flight cancellation: "The nature of the disease makes it hard for transmission on flight. We are very happy that the AU has become very proactive."
The Acting Foreign Minister also told the AU team that the Liberian Government is considering the country's post-Ebola era: "There is a need to follow-up when the headlines go down and the camera lights reduce [on Ebola coverage]".
Dr Julius Oketta, a Major General who leads the ASEOWA mission here, was also part of all the meetings held over the weekend.
Dr. Kaloko and his team are expected to pay similar visits to Sierra Leone and Guinea before heading to Ghana.
ASEOWA, comprising of experts that include epidemiologists, clinicians, public health specialists and communications personnel from Uganda, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria and Ethiopia, is expected to complement the efforts of on-going humanitarian assistance and coordinate support provided to the affected member states to augment field response operations. It will also support public awareness and preventive measures across Africa and specifically in the affected region.