NAM’s initiative to fight Ebola virus

The Non-Aligned Movement has always played a significant role in addressing global issues, that encompass not only the political domain, but spread to those in the field of technology, economy, and health. Through its summit, NAM has stressed the need to strengthen cooperation with the developing countries through North-South cooperation, triangular cooperation and an enhanced South/South partnership, especially in the health sector as well as the exchange of experiences and know-how in the health related sectors. NAM is fully supportive of the principles of the World Health Organization Constitution which emphasized that the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition, and also stressed that the health of all people is fundamental to the attainment of, peace and security and is dependent upon the fullest co-operation of individuals and states.

The outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa since 2013 has led to most severe and acute health emergency issue seen in the 21st century. The Ebola outbreak in West Africa was first reported in March 2014, and rapidly became the deadliest occurrence of the disease since its discovery in 1976.

More than 21 months on from the first confirmed case recorded on 23 March 2014, 11,315 people have been reported as having died from the disease in six countries; Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, the US and Mali. As of January 2016, the total number of reported cases was about 28,637. Since most of the countries affected were members of the Non-Aligned Movement, the issue found prominence among the NAM Member States as well as the movement as a whole. On 19 May 2015, the Ministers of Health of the Non-Aligned Movement met in Geneva and expressed the Movement’s grave concern on the threat posed by health epidemics, in particular, Ebola Virus Disease and stressed the needs for Member States and other relevant actors to extend urgently all possible means of support to the affected and highly at-risk countries to end the Ebola outbreak.

The movement has expressed its grave concern on vulnerable health systems both in West Africa and across the world that Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak has highlighted. The movement emphasises that one of the long term lessons of the EVD outbreak in West Africa is the importance of resilient health systems as cornerstones of successful and effective (health) system. The movement has also requested WHO to support Member States in their efforts on building resilient health systems and their efforts to prevent, detect and contain future outbreaks.

In line with the NAM pronouncements, many member States have offered their full support to the affected countries in combating Ebola virus disease that jeopardized the human’s public health and sustainable development in such countries. India has contributed USD 10 million to UN Secretary General’s Fund for Ebola and an additional USD 2 million for purchase of protective gear to tackle Ebola. Cuba has pledged to train 165 health professionals and deploy them in Sierra Leone. Ghana hosts the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (Unmeer) in Accra and has become a regional logistics hub for the Ebola response. Some developed countries of NAM are contributing through their advanced research facilities. As one such example, scientists in Singapore are analysing strains of the current Ebola virus against microbes from the 1976 outbreak. Non state actors have also contributed in the fight against Ebola. The Ebola Private Sector Mobilisation Group (EPSMG), a coalition of 39 private-sector companies operating in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, has announced support and continued trade and investment in affected countries.

Thus, the efforts by the NAM Member States in countering Ebola represent the broad vision of NAM framework of health as an important cross-cutting policy issue in the international agenda along with the recognition that global health challenges require concerted and sustained efforts.

By Dr. Pawan Mathur

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