Ebola: We’re all in this together

A young man receives a vaccine against Ebola from a nurse in Goma on August 7, 2019. PHOTO | AFP

What you need to know:

The issue: Ebola

Our view: While the seriousness of this outbreak must be impressed upon the population, in the same spirit government through its authorised agencies must demonstrate accountability

Uganda has declared an outbreak of Ebola. By September 20, one death had been registered with eight suspected cases receiving treatment. The Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) confirmed the case after testing a sample taken from a 24-year-old male.

Information from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that the Ebola virus is highly contagious. Infections carry a high fatality rate, ranging from about 50 percent to 90 percent with symptoms including fever, headache, joint and muscle aches, sore throat, and weakness, followed by diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach pain.

The Ebola outbreak can quickly degenerate into an international issue that will have lasting impacts on our already struggling economy. We believe that those entrusted with the authority to manage the outbreak will act in the interest of the country.

First, we do not envisage a situation where we behave like we were caught sleeping. Our history of responding to Ebola outbreaks dates back to the year 2000 and Uganda’s response to Ebola has improved considerably. We have lessons and we hope that investment was made in this particular epidemic preparedness.

Ebola has the potential of destabilising the country and the region. The required resources must quickly be deployed, especially for surveillance and preparedness to contain the outbreak. Apart from experience from the past outbreaks in the country, through agencies such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) we can leverage the experience in neighbouring the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and countries in West Africa.

We urge the authorities to ensure that there is rapid dissemination of trustworthy information, rational decision- making, and data sharing during this period of uncertainty. Global efforts to contain the disease must also be mobilised. We cannot afford rampant panic and misinformation. It is bad internally but will also affect tourism and other international engagements like trade.

From the Covid-19 pandemic, we also learn that so much suffering in the population was caused by insensitive and opportunistic decisions by the authorities. We hope that lessons were learned.

It is not a secret that dubious people and businesses, including state employees and politicians, profited from the Covid-19 pandemic. Many were awarded lucrative contracts while others simply raided the treasury. They have not been brought to justice and it is unlikely they will.

While the seriousness of this outbreak must be impressed upon the population, in the same spirit government through its authorised agencies must demonstrate accountability. Skeptics who are seemingly not taking the announcement by the Ministry of Health seriously can be granted some level of justification. This outbreak offers the Health Ministry an opportunity, for example, to rebuild the trust of the population by demonstrating good governance and effective leadership.

May the courage and sacrifice of Dr Matthew Lukwiya and others inspire us to collectively beat this latest outbreak!

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