The African Union Support to the Ebola Outbreak in West Africa (ASEOWA) welcomed back, on 22nd February, 17 health workers who were the first to be deployed to fight the deadly disease. Arriving from Liberia up on the completion of their tour of duty, and without infection among them, the health workers were welcomed back by Chairperson of the AUC , Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.
At the meeting organized to receive the health workers Dr Dlamini Zuma thanked the health workers for their pioneering role and emphasized that the AU’s is determined to defeat Ebola: “You personified Pan Africanism and solidarity. The African Union will stay the course until the affected countries are declared Ebola free. We are very happy that you undertook this mission,” she said.
Attending the meeting were the AUC commissioner for Social Affairs Dr Mustapha Sidiki Kaloko, the Director for Social Affairs Dr Olawale Maiyegu, ambassadors from from the health workers’ member states and a representative from Liberia.
Certificates of service were awarded for all the returnees in recognition of their contribution to the fight against Ebola. The returnees were from Nigeria, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Among them were doctors, hygienists and communications experts. One of them was a trainer of other medical personnel in the treatment of Ebola patients.
In their debriefing session, the health workers had the opportunity to share their experiences as well as some of the challenges they faced. Dr Abdou Sebushishe, a representative of the health workers, said, “when we went in September 2015, there were very few Ebola Treatment Units (ETUs). At first people preferred to go to other aid agencies when they contracted Ebola. The mortality rate was very high and there were dead bodies around. But in November 2014 we opened our own ETU in collaboration with the Cubans and the Swedish. We had 60 confirmed cases of Ebola and we released 22 of them. We also had psychosocial teams doing follow ups.”
The returning health workers were among the first group of African expert health workers to be deployed by the African Union Support to Ebola Outbreak in West Africa (ASEOWA). They left Addis Abeba in September 2014, after a two day pre deployment briefing by the African Union and other partners. In Liberia, they were given a further 2 weeks of intensive training to prepare them for work in the ETU.