Namibia, Angola to discuss DRC Ebola outbreak

27 August 2014 | Health

Amid growing concern among Southern African medical experts, Namibia will start training hundreds of nurses, doctors and other health professionals so they can identify the dreaded Ebola virus in patients, as the disease continues to creep closer to the country’s borders. Furthermore, extra precautions are to be put in place at the Oshikango and Wenela border posts, while Namibia is to meet with Angola to discuss strict travel restrictions between that country and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where two people have already died from Ebola. More than 1 400 people in West Africa have so far died from the disease. “We are most concerned about the bordering towns. Oshikango borders Angola and Wenela borders Zambia. Both these neighbouring countries share borders with the DRC. This is why the training of health workers is most important,” Health and Social Services Minister Richard Kamwi told Namibian Sun yesterday. He said the health professionals, who begin their training in Windhoek today, will also be shown how to use protective gear. Kamwi said the health professionals come from all 14 regions. During the training period, isolation wards will be set up to accommodate people suspected of being infected. Kamwi said although the Ebola cases in the DRC had been reported in remote areas, it was a new strain of the virus, and it was not known at this stage how many people had contracted the disease. “A new strain is highly concerning to all countries bordering the DRC. This is why I will be getting in touch with my Angolan counterpart to encourage him to impose strict travel restrictions between his country and the DRC. I will also continue appealing to my fellow Namibians to refrain from travelling to Ebola-hit countries,” Kamwi said. The former chairperson of the SADC Health Ministers, Dr Jean Kalilani, who is also Malawi’s health minister, said she is very concerned about the Ebola outbreak in the DRC. “The risk can be contained if preventive measures are strictly followed, as recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO),” she said. Yesterday, opposition leaders criticised Namibian government for what they called “inaction in the face of the growing Ebola crisis”. DTA President McHenry Venaani said Namibia has no measures in place along its land borders to prevent the virus from spreading to Namibia. “It’s becoming a critical situation,” he said. Venaani added he is concerned about the preparedness of workers at our health facilities. “There is no awareness. If our hospitals don’t even have water, then I find it hard to trust them with the Ebola crisis.” Rally for Democracy and Progress President Hidipo Hamutenya said considering the fact that Ebola had now reached Southern Africa, he would have expected the Namibian government to do everything in its power to make sure the virus doesn’t spread into Namibia. “We have to work fast, especially when it comes to educating people about the disease. I don’t see that happening right now,” he said. He said Namibia should impose a travel ban on all affected countries. “We hope and pray that the disease will be contained.” Congress of Democrats (CoD) President Ben Ulenga said a travel ban would be “superficial”, as there are no direct flights from West Africa to Namibia. “They have to fly through South Africa to get here and if South Africa has a travel ban, then none is needed here,” he said. “There is no outbreak in Namibia. We cannot behave like there is. I think the minister of health was right when he said ‘don’t scare the people’. Everything is in place,” Ulenga added. WINDHOEK FAITH SANKWASA and GORDON JOSEPH

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