Issues, as Nigeria approaches victory line in the race against Ebola

Nigeria approaches victory against EbolaBy Evelyn Okakwu

As Nigeria dots the ‘I’s and crosses the ‘T’s in the fight against Ebola; certain issues remain pertinent for consideration. Recall that a mong the dominant factors that led to the importation of the disease into Nigeria was the loosed nature of the country’s borders that allows for movement of non-Nigerians in and out of the country at will.

Even after the dastardly act by the late Patrick Sawyer, the Interior Minister, Abba Morro was quoted as saying that the Isolated case of Patrick Sawyer’s infection was not enough to bring about a decision by government to close Nigeria’s borders. “Isolated incident of the death of Patrick Sawyer on account of Ebola is not sufficient for this country to close its borders. Closure of borders is an extreme situation that has its own wide range consequences and so unless it becomes absolutely necessary, we don’t intend to close our borders as long as information reaching us indicates that Nigerian Medical workers and Nigerian Immigration Service and all other Health officials are striving to contend the situation, no need to close our borders.”

Although at the time when this statement was made only Patrick Sawyer had died in Nigeria, as a result of the deadly virus; not even the applaudable efforts of government in containing the disease has prevented it from resulting in the deaths of five more people in Nigeria, as at the time of filling in this report. Also reports by the World Health Organisation, (WHO) has indicated that over 20, 000 cases of the disease could be reported before any successful effort to truly curtail the dreaded Ebola VBirus. “Bruce Aylward, a top WHO official, who spoke to the BBC said the number of cases could be much higher than reported “The deadly Ebola outbreak in West Africa could infect more than 20,000 people before it is brought under control.

The UN agency said the number of cases could already be four times higher than the 3,000 currently registered” the report adds.

At the State house, recently, the Minister of health, Onyebuchi Chukwu indicated that the Federal government has acknowledged that the fight against Ebola is still on. According to the Health Minister; “Yes! Nigeria is doing well in containing the disease, but containmentis like getting an animal into a cage, but it is not yet dead. All of them so far in Nigeria have been traced to Mr Patrick Sawyer, but we know there is nothing stopping someone coming with a fresh case from anywhere in the world.”

The above statement by the health Minister indicates that so much needs to be done to curtail the disease from the quarters of the immigration officers, whose responsibility it is to checkmate the persons moving in and out of the country.

Yet a previous report by a national daily, had indicated that the present staff strength of the Nigerian immigration officers cannot meet up with the herculean task of checkmating a people already used to the porous nature of Nigeria’s borders. According to the report; “The Nigerian Immigration officers have only 23, 000 workers, whose number is grossly inadequate to curtail the disease. Though the Federal Government had issued a health advisory to port health officers and the immigration service personnel, investigations showed that they were not given enough equipment that could assist them in the task of identifying and isolating infected persons coming into the country”.

The reports further states that there is as much as 1, 479 illegal routes into Nigeria; as opposed to the legal 114 borders currently manned by health and immigration officers.

What this means is that, with the likes of the Dreadful Patrick Sawyer still in other parts of the world, not even the clean bill of health, expected to be given to the Nigerians presently under surveillance should be considered a ticket to victory over the Ebola Virus.

Although the WHO has advised against the closure of borders, saying that vital flights across the region should not be banned. “Travel bans were threatening efforts to beat the epidemic”.

Other fresh reports on the issue state that the British pharmaceuticals giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is trying to introduce safety trials on an experimental Ebola vaccine. “GSK says it plans to build up a stockpile of up to 10,000 doses for

emergency deployment if results from the trials, which could begin as soon as next month, are good”. With the nature of the spread already recorded in parts of West

Africa, it will suffice to state that unless Nigeria improves upon its borders and acquire vaccines in such large quantities that they become a household product across the country, we may indeed be far fromEuphoric stage that some analysts are already agitating for.

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