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President meets Queen Elizabeth II

Source: Graphic Online

President John Dramani Mahama yesterday held a meeting with Queen Elizabeth II at the Buckingham Palace in London.

The meeting, which was held behind closed doors, was believed to have centred on Ghana’s democratic development and the Ebola epidemic in parts of West Africa.

Ghana is an active and committed member of the 53-member Commonwealth of which the British Monarch is the head.

Before meeting the Queen, President Mahama, who is also the Chairman of ECOWAS, had taken his international mobilisation efforts against the unprecedented Ebola epidemic to the House of Commons in London, calling for increased food supplies from the international community to the worse-hit countries of West Africa.

Addressing the All Party Parliamentary Group of the House last Wednesday, Mr Mahama said with the agricultural season in the three countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea almost over and farmers unable to properly tend their crops because of the disease, the impact of the outbreak on the people could be very terrible if increased supplies did not come from outside.

Latest World Health Organisation (WHO) figures indicate that Ebola has infected 9,216, with 4,555 deaths. Most of the victims are from the three badly hit West African countries.

President Mahama, who has been in London and Copenhagen, Denmark, this week, had been making a strong case for the international community to update its response to the epidemic.

He told the House of Commons Group that aside from food items, medical supplies and protective equipment were needed.

There was also the need to train more volunteers and increase public education on the disease, he said.

Mr Mahama said, however, that although international response to the epidemic started slowly, it had picked up, with the United Nations, governments and various organisations instituting programmes and redeeming pledges in the form of financial and related matters to the affected countries.

He commended the United Kingdom government for committing £125 million to help fight the disease.

In addition to that, the UK had introduced an Ebola community care programme and planned to supply 700 treated beds for use by about 8,800 patients over six months.

President Mahama called on the international community not to treat epidemics in Africa with indifference.

He took a peep into history and said most often epidemics that occurred in African countries were treated as though they were the creation of conditions that existed in the particular country and so the problem should be left to that country to solve.

On the other hand, he said, when epidemics hit the advanced nations in the past, the reaction of the international community was the exact opposite.

He mentioned the influenza pandemic with roots from France that infected about 500 million worldwide, with an estimated 50 to 100 million deaths, and the great plague of London which was said to have claimed the lives of about 200,000 people as typical examples.

“In the case of the London plague, houses of infected persons were marked with a red cross and sometimes accompanied by the written statement, ‘Lord have mercy on us’.

“I return to these two epidemics because when it comes to African nations, the occurrence or recurrence of disease is often greeted with indifference, as though it is a problem that was created by conditions which exist in that particular country; a problem that should be left for the country to resolve on its own,” President Mahama said.

Ghana, the President said, was in the thick of events in the fight to bring an end to the Ebola disease.

He mentioned the volunteering of Accra as the operational base for all activities concerning the containment of the disease as a typical case of Ghana’s support.

About the upcoming meeting of ECOWAS Heads of State on Ebola, which he is hosting in the first week of November, President Mahama said it was expected to go a long way as part of efforts to contain the epidemic.

President Mahama referred to the address he gave at the 2014 UN General Assembly and indicated that what he said about Ebola not being a West African, Liberian, Sierra Leonean, or Guinean problem but a global one had come true.

Since that time, he said, the total number of cases outside West Africa had risen to 17.

“These numbers may seem small, but when speaking of human lives, there is no such thing. Every single life matters,” he said.

The President said the most disturbing aspect of the disease was that it affected countries that were not in a position to handle such a major health crisis.

“Both Liberia and Sierra Leone were recovering from long-term conflicts and Guinea, which shares borders with both countries, was also recovering from the impact of their respective conflicts,” he explained, adding that at the time of the outbreak, Liberia had less than 200 doctors in the country.

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