via Invest in health, says President | The Herald July 22, 2015
African Union and Sadc chairperson President Mugabe has made a clarion call for countries in the continent to join hands and support countries hard-hit by the Ebola outbreak since last year.
Besides claiming at least 11 000 lives since last year in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the disease has also left economies of affected countries ravaged.
In his opening remarks at the International Conference on Africa’s fight against Ebola here yesterday, President Mugabe said there was also need to invest more in health care systems particularly research on preventative and curative mechanisms in the continent to avoid such disease outbreaks in future.
President Mugabe, whose 30 minutes delivery was punctuated with interjects of applause, said the virus left a trail of devastation in the three affected countries.
“We found ourselves faced with an unprecedented loss of our beloved brothers and sisters in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone,” said President Mugabe.
“The adverse impact of Ebola was immediate, far reaching and devastating. Caught unawares as we were, we found ourselves compelled to deal with a health emergency which no known care, no known cure, or vaccine but one which required quick action and re-allocation of resources.”
For that reason, President Mugabe said the disease required collective engagement to be contained and avert future occurrences.
“We did not see the enemy. He was invisible but devastating. We guessed, touched this and touched that, thought this and thought that but the enemy was devastating. What we have known is that this enemy cannot be fought as we fought the colonial enemy with AK rifles. No! But what we have discovered is that we have institutions of health all of us, in all our countries! There lies the actual remedy, the actual weapons we can utilise,” he said.
President Mugabe said the continent had the human capital with the capacity to detect and find cure to such diseases as Ebola.
But for this to happen, he said, there was need for research and solidarity.
“So, this is an enemy we know. It is an enemy that can be discovered by our commanders in the ministries of Health. They have the knowledge, they have the expertise and let’s pull them together and defeat this common enemy.
“Our forefathers did so yesterday. When the enemy was visible, we knew he was there whether he was a Briton or French or Portuguese or Spanish. But now this enemy, we don’t know where it comes from and our witch doctors also are at a loss. They cannot cure with their bones or medicines those who are attacked.
“But we know where now the weaponry lies. Experience has taught us through of course, studying the cases that have affected us and what we need is real research. What we need is a combination of preventive and curative forces and this can be done by our emphasising research, emphasising the work that has been done now in the three countries — Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea Conakry,” said President Mugabe.
He said there were three critical areas that needed to be addressed namely — rebuilding and strengthening of national and continental emergency preparedness and responses; the fighting of the huge economic and societal havoc that Ebola has caused in the region; and, the rebuilding and strengthening of health systems and disease surveillance networks.
President Mugabe said African countries had a major role to play in helping the three affected countries to recover and re-construct their economies.
“Now that we know the enemy, we must now come out and manufacture the weaponry that our research has been able to discover.
“Let’s work together, contribute the little we have, the little Zimbabwe has, the little Sierra Leone has, the little Equatorial Guinea, the little everyone of our countries has and those little, little, little put together will really be an African big and very effective fight against this virus.
“Sierra Leone has no money to fight the virus alone. Guinea has no money to fight the virus alone and poor Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has no money to fight this virus alone. But put together, our little resources, our little economies surely, we will emerge with a force that can defeat the enemy and of course also with generous support from the world that think as we think, the world that would want to see us rise, develop and get enlightened,” said the President.
President Mugabe added that Africa was supposed to draw some lessons from the Ebola outbreak that highlighted developing countries’ weaknesses in identifying and neutralising health hazards.
He said for that reason, there was need to come up with mechanisms that would prepare the continent and avert future Ebola outbreaks.
Some of the strategies, he said included the need to accelerate investment in building resilient communities and well-performing health systems that integrate public and primary health care.
President Mugabe said health systems should aim for universal health coverage to cater for the poor as well.
He hailed the African continent for pooling resources together to help the three Ebola-affected countries.
He also thanked the international community that pledged about $5,2 billion at the International Ebola Recovery Conference that was convened by United Nations Secretary-General, Mr Ban Ki-moon in New York about a fortnight ago.
President Mugabe implored the countries that pledged to direct the funds to the affected governments.