The Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) is the most severe health emergency of modern times . It contributes severely to potential state failure especially if not properly handled. With the reoccurrence of this virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo in April 2018, some 39 cases have been confirmed by the government of that country . Between April 4th and May 10th 2018, about 19 people have lost their lives to this virus . This outbreak was unprecedented in scale, with more than 28 000 confirmed cases and 11 000 deaths and had a the economic impact on the west African region was crippling.
This recent outbreak has caused an uproar in countries across Africa, who have started seeking the best possible means to tackle this virus. Kenya for instance, started carrying out screening exercises at major entry points into the country. They have also installed thermal guns at the entry points to detect travellers with abnormally high temperatures .
The question remains – what measures has the government of Cameroon taken to prevent a possible outbreak? Does the government have the necessary resources to tackle the virus should the need arise? Is the government ready to take and advocate preventive measures or does she want to wait until there is a confirmed case before looking for solutions? With the above questions in mind, it is imperative that the government be ready and alert to find possible ways of preventing this virus. Delay is dangerous. Waiting to have a confirmed case before looking for solutions is risky.
During the last EVD outbreak of 2014, fear gripped many Cameroonians following reports and rumor that cases of the disease were imported from neighboring Nigeria . To this effect, the Minister of Public Health, noted that “in preparation for a possible emergence of this disease, surveillance be strengthened in all the health districts at the borders, particularly at the level of all the health posts, airports and seaports in the country. Passengers were screened at all these entry points to avoid any infected person from entering the country. True to this is the fact that Cameroon, being a forest zone with lots of chimpanzees, monkeys and bats, is a country prone to the disease. People were advised not to feed on these animals back then or even bring home dead animals. All these were measures put in place to avoid the EVD. This rumor however, contributed to some economic losses and benefits in products such as the sale of bush meat which was said to be a main carrier of the virus. On the other hand, there was an increase in the sale of bitter cola which people believed could be used as an antioxidant for the virus .
But, with the reoccurrence of this deadly virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the continuing increase in the number of affected cases, the government of Cameroon needs to be alert and put into place better security and preventive measures to prevent the virus. During the last outbreak, the government of Cameroon only benefited from two Ebola kits comprised of 100 protective clothing garments for medical staff; kits donated by the Democratic Republic of Congo.
What needs to be done? Massive sensitization campaigns should be carried out in all of our health facilities; not just at the border or entry points into the country. Create awareness and the spirit of discipline in those living in the forest zone on the ills of consuming some of this bush meat. However, it is difficult to educate these people now that some Cameroonians have been displaced into the bushes by the current crises rocking the north west and south west regions of the country. Those chased into these bushes tend to feed on the animals whether dead or alive. This increases the chances of a possible outbreak if truly the virus can be transmitted from dead animals. Education is therefore key to sensitizing the population even in the bushes. People can volunteer to educate these group of people especially during such periods where they have the chance to provide some humanitarian aid to the displaced persons. These volunteers can during such occasions take the opportunity to educate these displaced persons.
On the other hand, government should dedicate more funds to the health sector and make the funds easy and readily available for use in the event of an outbreak.
In recent years, diseases such as Ebola place a substantial negative effect on the total government budget, as well as the healthcare systems of affected countries . The indirect consequences of the Ebola epidemic and its disruption of public and private services threatens the lives and livelihoods of more than 22 million people in Ebola-affected areas .
What actually is the Ebola Virus Disease and how is it transmitted?
Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) is a rare and deadly disease most commonly affecting people and nonhuman primates. (monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees). First medically recorded in 1976, EVD emerged in what is now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo . To date, the origin of this deadly virus has hardly been identified. What is known is that the outbreak first occurred between March and May 2014, with the DRC recording her first case in April 2014. Four years down the line, and again in April another outbreak is recorded. One may be forced to ask if there is an actual correlation between the season of occurrence of this virus.
What then is the impact of a possible outbreak of the virus on the Cameroonian economy? The crisis is likely to have longer-term socio-economic and political consequences on the country’s development and stability as a result of its immediate impact on people’s health . Ebola has strong and devastating effects on the health of the population. In addition to the direct health effects of the viral disease, the indirect effects on health service may lead to increased morbidity and mortality. More so, factors such as patient’s fear of Ebola and death of health care staff has reportedly affected health-seeking behavior and reduced the function of health service.
In conclusion, government should create an emergency fund to tackle outbreaks of this nature. In the same light, more preventive measures should be put in place before and during the outbreak to avoid a catastrophic situation should there be need. On their part too, citizens should engage in healthy habits and avoid situations that puts their health at risk.
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Dr Fuein Vera Kum is a Research Fellow at the Nkafu Policy Institute. She joined the institute as Economic Policy Analyst in 2017 with a focus on health economics and development policy. She holds a Ph.D in Economics from the University of Benin, Nigeria.
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