Call to restrict travellers to Zambia from ebola-hit DRC

2 People Have Died of Ebola in DR Congo, 'Nothing to Do With' West Africa Epidemic: Minister
2 People Have Died of Ebola in DR Congo, 'Nothing to Do With' West Africa Epidemic: Minister

KATIMA MULILO – A senior politician in Zambezi wants the restriction of the movement of trucks and people from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where two cases of Ebola were reported.

Last week over 80 South Africa-bound trucks from the DRC were stranded at the Kazungula border post after Botswana immigration authorities prevented them from entering the country over concerns about Ebola.

Zambezi is a trans-frontier region bordering countries such as Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Angola with the latter countries sharing borders with the DRC, thus making them susceptible to the disease.

What seems to heighten the region’s susceptibility is the fact many nationals including foreigners from Zambia and DRC take fish consignments from Namibia to Kasumbalesa, a border town between Zambia and DRC where the market for freshwater fish is said to be lucrative.

Currently the two border posts of Wenela and Ngoma including the makeshift border of Imusho in the Kongola constituency in the region remain open for travellers from any of the surrounding arreas and elsewhere.

Chairperson of the Zambezi Regional Council Raphael Mbala noted that plans were underway to put measures in place but such plans have not come to fruition due to some delays.

“We have identified a site where we are going to put up a camp in order to contain any outbreak that might occur. We have identified a place on the outskirts of Katima Mulilo and we are yet to request its occupancy. The NDF would help us to clear the area,” Mbala told New Era.

He says the Zambezi is vulnerable given the constant movement of people to Kasumbalesa.

“It’s important that we have measures in place especially now that we have received reports that Ebola is in the DRC. We have to take measures such as banning those travelling to Kasumbalesa to sell their fish there and even truck drivers transporting copper,” stressed Mbala.

Mbala further noted that Zambezi Regional Governor, Lawrence Sampofu, who was in Windhoek engaged the Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr Richard Kamwi, over the issue.

“The governor is in Windhoek and although he went there for another mission he is busy talking to the health minister about the issue. We’re waiting for health equipment and protective gear so that we set up a quarantine camp for any eventualities.”

Last week Sampofu together with Mbala and Chief Regional Officer Regina Ndopu-Lubinda convened an emergency meeting with members of the regional disaster risk management committee to look at putting Ebola precautionary and contingent measures in place.

During the meeting Sampofu noted he would engage his counterparts in neighbouring countries such as Zambia and Botswana to find ways of collaborating in the containment of Ebola.

Sampofu had further called on the Ministry of Health and Social Services to sensitise officials at Ngoma, Imusho and Wenela border posts and to control the movement of taxi drivers.

“The ministry of health should avail someone to train border officials. Taxi drivers crossing into Zambia need to be stopped and we are going to ask the police to patrol our borders at night. We also need to inform our indunas regarding this deadly disease,” stated Sampofu.

The directorate of health has also started running educational campaigns on the local radio service.

There are currently precautionary measures in place at Hosea Kutako International Airport, Oshikango border post and Walvis Bay harbour.

The Ministry of Health and Social services recently announced it has banned all travellers from countries hit by Ebola as a precaution.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) over 1 427 people in West Africa have so far succumbed to the deadly virus.

Countries hit by Ebola include Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. There were some media reports that quoted the DRC health minister as having confirmed two Ebola deaths in DRC.

Ebola is caused by a virus that results in severe illness with up to 90 per cent fatality rate.

No vaccine is currently available for the disease which often spreads fast even from infected dead bodies. Early symptoms include fever, tiredness, headaches and nausea which later result in vomiting, diarrhoea, coughing and bleeding from the nose and mouth.

Prevention includes not getting in contact with an infected person and people are also advised to avoid touching or eating bush meat and bats.