WHO, West African Ministers of Health Develop Ebola Strategy

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Sarah Joanne Jakubowski, Ghana CorrespondentLast Modified: 13:50 p.m. DST, 07 July 2014

Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Photo by Photo by International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

ACCRA, Ghana -- Last week an Emergency Ministerial Meeting was held in Accra to discuss the growing Ebola epidemic.

The disease, which can have up to a 90% fatality rate, started in rural Guinea then spread to neighboring Liberia and Sierra Leone. Without intervention, it will continue its international invasion.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says the proposed strategy to treat, control and prevent Ebola will cost $10 million and would need to be put into place within the next six months.

Representatives called on the African Union and The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for the funds.

The plan would set up an Ebola treatment and research center in Guinea as well as smaller centers in other affected areas. Funds will go to training and deploying staff, providing medical equipment and supplies to affected or at-risk regions and educating the public.

An emphasis was placed on research, both to develop treatments and cures and also social research to gauge public understanding and reaction to the disease. However, Africa's research facilities were described as "weak" and a request for global collaboration among scientists was issued.

When asked if border control was a viable solution to control the spread of the disease, the idea of country-wide quarantines was shot down.

Ministry of Health & Social Welfare (MOHSW) Liberia explained that there were so many border crossing points it would be impractical to watch all of them. The Minister went on to say that while his country was able to stop several travelers who were carrying the disease, there were many false positives and possibly cases where infected travelers were not yet showing symptoms and so got through. A key problem was that Ebola can incubate unnoticed for up to 21-days in a seemingly healthy person.

Some traditional practices can help spread diseases, and doctors across the region are urging people to seek assistance from trained doctors or one of the international organizations that are on the ground providing help, education, and intervention. Organizations such as UNICEF Liberia, The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), and Medicins Sans Frontieres.

These organizations in conjunction with local doctors and government health officials urged all West African citizens to take precautions when handling the sick and deceased. Practices involving delayed burials and prolonged contact with the dead facilitate disease spread.

"People don't know what they're dealing with" explained, emphasizing the need to especially educate churches, those whose jobs involve handling the dead, as well as the need to educate family members about Ebola so that the sick can seek immediate treatment to avoid infecting others.

This is a very urgent issue, and though citizens in the West may feel that they are immune from this disease, it takes just one person to breach the borders of any Asia, Middle East, European Union, or North/South American countries for the deadly virus to become a global pandemic.

Follow Sarah on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Africa Correspondent: @SJJakubowski

Tuareg Rebels Eye Azawad Secession

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 22:23 PM EDT, 2 April 2012

Tuareg with Sword, Niger, Photo by Swiatoslaw WojkowiakAZAWAD, Mali - The stability of Mali continues to be a grave issue for its citizens and neighboring countries.  West African leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), an organization comprised of 15 countries, have brought to bear the strictest economic sanctions available to them against the Malian military usurpers.

Alassane Ouattara, the President of Ivory Coast and Chairman of ECOWAS, stated on Monday at the summit being held in Dakar, that a complete embargo against diplomatic relations, trade and freezing access to the country's bank accounts, would go into effect immediately.

The desired outcome is the restoration of constitutional order, as was promised in a televised announcement by Lt. Amadou Konare following last month’s coup which ousted former President Amadou Touré. Ironically, the military’s overthrow of Touré was in response to his government’s perceived ineffectiveness in handling the latest Tuareg uprising, but they have yet to subdue the rebels or quell the conflict.

In fact, the Tuareg remain steadfast in their determination to succeed from country. According to Akli Souleymane, a senior official at the Azawad separatist movement, they will not cease this revolution until they have achieved this objective. They do not recognize the current military coup orchestrators, and reject all negotiations with them as they did with the Touré government.

Unlike previous uprisings in which the Tuareg were ill-equipped and untrained, the mercenaries returning from Libya have significant insurgency experience. Fierce warriors, the Tuareg appear unafraid to die, which is an attribute that has kept their culture alive despite high infant mortality rates, and lack of access to potable water or education.

“Estimates of the number of returning Tuareg fighters range between 800 and 4,000. On their return to Mali, many stopped short of Kidal in the mountainous region around Ti-n-Asselak in the Abeibara district where they linked up with the fighters of former rebel leader Ibrahim ag Bahanga's (who died in August 2011) Mouvement Touareg du Nord Mali (MTNM). On October 16, these and various other groups merged to form the Mouvement National de Liberation de l'Azawad (MNLA).” (Source: Aljazeera)

Prior to 2011, the Tuareg have initiated four rebellions to establish the Azawad territory as a separate country. Azawad is the Tuareg name for the region north of Timbuktu that today covers the regions of Timbuktu, Kidal and Gao. They have launched several attempts to secede from Mali which led to wars which lasted from 1916-1917, 1962-64, 1990-95, and 2007-2009.

It is estimated that there are roughly 5.7MTuareg living in the Sahara Desert region. Also, known as the Sahel, the majority of Tuareg, about 1.4M live in Mali, while the remaining occupy areas of Libya, Mauritania, northern Niger, southern Algeria, Chad, Burkino Faso, and parts of Nigeria.

According to the website North Africa United, the Tuareg culture is nomadic and up until the 20th Century, they lived an existence as traders following ancient caravan routes which they annually traveled from Sub-Saharan Africa to the north and the Mediterranean.

“The Tuareg came to control the Sahara caravan trade routes from the great centres of Sub-Saharan Africa to the north and the Mediterranean. They provided protection and also supervised the slave trade from West Africa. This continued till well into the mid-20th Century.

'Tuareg’ is an arabic term meaning abandoned by God and they call themselves themselves ‘Imohag’ which translates as Free Men. They are an ancient warrior race and their language is Tamashek, their writing script is Tifinagh which is said to have come from ancient Libya. As road and rail infrastructure took over, the Tuareg have largely abandoned their previous nomadic existence and have settled but have never had their own homeland.”

In prior conflicts the Malian government was successful in its efforts to subdue Tuareg rebellions by attacking civilians using some of the most atrocious tactics witnessed in many ethnic cleansing conflicts across the globe. In order to protect their vulnerable populations, the rebels ultimately surrendered and laid down their arms.

However, military gains by the rebels, especially the capture of Kidal and Gao in recent days, and yesterday’s capture of Timbuktu, have embolden the MNLA, giving them the confidence they need to push to the mark and finally achieve their separatist goal.

Since Tessalit fell to the MNLA several weeks ago, the Malian army, already dispirited and ill-equipped, may no longer be in a position to maintain control of the Azawad region. In a territory this vast, it was difficult to police with a democratically elected government. The interim military government has more pressing issues at hand, and may choose to abdicate control of Azawad in the face of increased desertions and MNLA gains.

It shall remain to be seen what the outcome of this confluence of events shall yield, but it certainly looks like Mali, much like Sudan before it, could be headed toward an unwilling succession.

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Twitter: @nahmias_report Editor: @ayannanahmias