India offers aid to Ebola-hit countries


ebola-patientWith the deadly Ebola virus ravaging West Africa, the Indian government has pledged financial assistance to Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, and has asked its nationals to defer non-essential travel to the affected countries.

There are 44,700 Indians living in Ebola-affected countries, out of which 300 are troops from Central Reserve Police Force deployed in the peacekeeping operations in Liberia. There are almost 500 Indians in Republic of Guinea, 3,000 in Liberia and 1,200 in Sierra Leone while Nigeria has the extensive presence of Indians with the number estimated to be 40,000.

“India will provide USD 50,000 each cash assistance to Liberia, Sierra Leone and the Republic of Guinea” said Syed Akbaruddin, the spokesperson of India’ external affairs ministry, in Delhi August 6. He pointed out that India usually provides medicine and assistance in such cases, but this time, given the nature of emergency in the affected regions, India has chosen to take a different route.

The epidemic has been mainly confined to the West-African countries including Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. The World Health Organisation has reported around 1603 cases including 887 deaths in these four countries.

Over the last few years, India has been expanding its diplomatic and economic footprints in the resource-rich West African region. India’s engagement with West Africa has focused on increasing trade and investment, assistance in capacity building and maritime security cooperation.

To mitigate the risk of the disease spreading and claiming lives in India, passengers would be required to do a mandatory self-reporting while coming or transiting through the affected countries at the time of immigration check. In-flight announcements would also be made by the airlines regarding the same. India’s Health Ministry has taken precautionary measures by designating facilities at airports/ports to manage travelers exhibiting symptoms of the disease. The Indian Medical Association has also sensitised the doctors about the diagnostic details and the treatment measures.

“All precautions are being taken by us. While the risk of Ebola virus cases in India is low, preparedness measures are in place to deal with any case of the virus imported to India,” the Health Minister said in a statement. He further added that the Armed Forces would also be taking action to suitably advise their personnel in the affected region for appropriate health precautions. In case the situation worsens further, he said, there could be possibility of Indians who are staying there travelling back to India.

Apart from the health, home, external affairs and civil aviation ministries, the armed forces, National Disaster Management and WHO also attended the review meeting on Tuesday.