Since the Ebola outbreak came to public notice, the world has watched not only 1000 plus people lose lives, the West African economy has also felt a crippling effect. Following the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) labelling of the situation an international health emergency, a massive exodus from multinational businesses has been on the increase, much to the displeasure of WHO.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) this week expressed disappointment over the decision of some airlines to cancel flights to West African countries over the Ebola outbreak.
“WHO (is) disappointed when airlines stop flying to West Africa,” the UN health agency said in a
on Thursday. “Hard to save lives if we and other health workers cannot get in.”
Several airlines across the world had stopped flights to Ebola-endemic countries across West Africa. Asky airlines, the airline that airlifted the Liberian-American who took the virus to Nigeria, had earlier cancelled flights to Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. Arik, Emirates and British Airways have also cancelled flights to the three countries.
Kenya’s national carrier, Kenya Airways (KQ) has however resisted pressure to stop flying to the Ebola-hit West African states as it says WHO has not advised it against continuing flights. Although, the country’s Members of Parliament accused the airline of ‘putting profit before people’, as KQ’s 36 destinations in Africa include 10 West African cities where it flies 44 times per week, the management of KQ however say flights will continue.
Fellow West African country, Ivory Coast had also forbidden all “carriers from transporting passengers” from the affected countries and has also suspended flights by Air Cote d’Ivoire, its national carrier “until further notice”. Central African country, Chad had also banned all flights from Nigeria. Ghana is also proposing a ban on all “public gatherings”, while Zambia is banning entry to anyone from Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria.
Apparently scared of further outbreak, the world seem to be cutting off West Africa, with Nigerian athletes placed into quarantine at the Summer Youth Olympic
in China, making the team quit in protest.
WHO has therefore moved to dampen the fears, saying Ebola is not airborne, unlike influenza and tuberculosis. Stressing why airlines should continue flying to Ebola-hit countries, the health agency said people sick with Ebola are usually so unwell that they cannot travel, adding that their countries are expected to also take steps to ensure they do not travel. Since a person infected with Ebola is only contagious when he or she is symptomatic, WHO notes that risk of transmission is minimal.
“Some religious beliefs require dead body to be washed. As Ebola virus level is highest in dead body, this is highest source of transmission,” WHO said.
Médecins sans frontières (Doctors Without Borders) also criticised airlines and countries banning flights to the Ebola endemic countries, saying these countries should not be cut off in the name of protecting the society.
“The oversensationalism and hype around Ebola has not helped the public’s understanding of how the disease is spread,” said Stephen Cornish, executive director of MSF Canada.
With countries like Ivory Coast blocking ship cargo to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, there are fears of food and fuel shortages in these countries. The economic impact of the actions against these countries is also a cause for concern.
Arik Air’s Head of Flight Operations, Captain Ado Sanusi in an interview with Nigerian media outfit, Thisday, said the cancelation of flights will shrink the economies of the affected countries.
“This will include everything; not only the airlines, commerce and other things, but even the aviation support industry will be affected. You are talking about the airport, the catering, handling companies, the airlines, oil marketers that are supplying Jet A1 to them. It will affect the entire economy of that sub sector,” said Sanusi.
WHO had in an early August after the meeting of the Ebola Emergency Committee under the International Health Regulations, recommended among other things, that no ban should be placed on international travel or trade.
1,975 cases of the Ebola virus infection have so far been recorded, 1069 of which have died.