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West African ministers of health in the joint fight against Ebola

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Health ministers from Guinea – which is battling a new Ebola outbreak – and neighboring countries have agreed on a unified front to tackle the virus which reappeared about three weeks ago.

The meeting was opened by His Excellency the Prime Minister of Guinea, Dr Ibrahima Kassory Fofana, in Conakry, the capital of Guinea, on March 2. Ministers and government representatives from Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Senegal and Sierra Leone participated in the inter-ministerial meeting.

“If in 2014 Guinea and the neighboring countries were victims of Ebola, this time Guinea and the region are resolutely confronted with Ebola”, declared HE the Prime Minister.

The ministers agreed in a final declaration to put in place a coordination mechanism, to improve cross-border collaboration, including working with communities, to support efforts to contain the virus. They also agreed to facilitate the regulation of imports of vaccines and drugs and to promote effective measures to control the 2014-2016 Ebola epidemic in West Africa.

Guinea declared an epidemic on February 14 after cases were confirmed positive for Ebola in a rural community in N’Zérékore prefecture, which lies near the border with Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia. As of March 2, 17 cases (13 confirmed, 4 probable) had been reported.

“We are very encouraged by the common front taken by Guinea’s neighbors to fight this epidemic. We know from experience how essential this is in the fight against Ebola, ”said Dr Abdou Salam Gueye, Regional Director of Emergencies at the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Africa. “With cross-border trade and close social ties, we cannot ignore the importance of regional approaches to health crises.”

To support Guinean health authorities, WHO and partner organizations have stepped up the response to the epidemic. Vaccinations against the Ebola virus were launched just nine days after the outbreak was declared. To date, 1,317 people have been vaccinated and 32,000 doses of vaccine have been delivered to date.

The six neighboring countries of Guinea are stepping up their preparation. Surveillance and screening are intensified at border crossings and in high-risk communities. Rapid response teams are deployed in border areas to support health district preparedness plans. Testing and treatment facilities are being expanded and efforts are being made to ensure communities take full ownership and mobilize around public health responses.

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