Fears Over Ebola Grow in Zambezi

There is growing fear over Ebola in the Zambezi following the outbreak of the deadly virus in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the recently reported quarantine of about 98 people mostly Nigerians in Harare, Zimbabwe.

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

What seems to heighten fear is the fact that many nationals including foreigners from Zambia and DRC still take fish consignments from Namibia to Kasumbalesa, a border town between Zambia and the DRC where the market for freshwater fish is lucrative.

A well-placed source in the Ministry of Home Affairs confirmed that no directive has been received instructing a ban on travellers from the DRC and the surrounding countries suspected to be highly susceptible.

The Zambezi Region has the border posts of Wenela and Ngoma plus the makeshift border post of Imusho in the Kongola Constituency, which sees an overwhelming number of visitors from countries such as DRC, Zimbabwe, Angola and Zambia on a daily basis.

Zambezi Regional Governor Lawrence Sampofu stated that although his office has not received any official communication regarding the ban on foreign nationals from countries hit by Ebola, the region has put in place precautionary measures at all the border posts with the deployment of nursing personnel who conduct screening of every traveller who enters the country.

“The ministry of health’s nurses use thermo detectors to monitor the situation,” he said.

The Ministry of Health and Social Services announced in August this year it has banned travellers from countries affected by Ebola as a precaution.

Sampofu, who conceded the region was not adequately prepared due to a lack of resources, further quelled rumours that Zimbabwean nationals are banned from entering Namibia.

“Currently we don’t have enough resources but we identified a place where we were supposed to put up a camp for any emergencies. As it is now any suspicious cases we have we send to Windhoek where facilities have been put up. We have not been told officially that people from Zimbabwe are banned. That is just a rumour. We are just hearing it from the media,” said Sampofu.

Upon visiting the border posts this reporter saw a team of three nurses at Wenela and Ngoma conducting screening but it was not clear if the makeshift border post of Imusho was also covered.

The Zambezi health directorate could not provide information and all queries were referred to the spokesperson of the ministry of health whose phone was unreachable.

However according to a source that preferred not to be named the screening for Ebola began earlier this month and even though no cases have been detected, the Wenela border post is often inundated with Congolese and Namibian nationals taking fish to Kasumbalesa.

So far the number of people who have succumbed to Ebola has exceeded 3 000 according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Countries hard hit by Ebola include Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

Earlier this month, WHO further reported that the DRC has joined countries hit by the deadly virus with the number of suspected and confirmed Ebola infections in DRC having doubled to 62 in a period of one week with 35 deaths , 9 confirmed and 26 that are probable.

Source : New Era