WASHINGTON D.C. —
The year 2014 was supposed to be a period of a green revolution for Africa, with agriculture and food security in the front burner for the continent.
But a number of factors came into play and scuttled the revolution, including sustained conflict and the deadly Ebola virus that has so far claimed the lives of over 7,500 people in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with the VOA Monday, African Union Chairperson Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said though gains had been made in realizing agriculture-led growth, the Ebola crisis had been a great challenge to the continent.
“It has been challenging because of the way it has turned out; the magnitude, the length of time it has taken and the fact that it was in fragile states and in countries that had never seen Ebola before,” said Dlamini-Zuma.
She said Africa has managed, however, to turn the Ebola challenge into an opportunity.
African nations, said Dlamini-Zuma, have been engaged in the fight against the Ebola virus, adding nations and individuals should continue to contribute not only to strengthen the human resources of the affected countries but also financially.
“It has been an opportunity to see how much solidarity there is amongst and between our countries and peoples and indeed we have seen it,” said Dlamini-Zuma.
The AU has so far sent over 500 health workers to help in the affected countries with the figure expected to top 1,000 in the next four weeks.
Centers for Disease Control
She said the African Union is accelerating efforts to establish a continental centre along the lines of the United States' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“There’s progress and that progress will be reported to the AU Summit and the Heads of State will decide whether we go forward,” she said.
“But as you know, it’s a decision that had been taken before the Ebola outbreak but now it needs to be accelerated because of the outbreak.”
Dlamini-Zuma said nations have been contributing health personnel to strengthen the human resources in the affected countries with others giving money and other necessities.
Private citizens, she added, have also been playing their part from various African cities. But more still needs.
The world health organization says the death toll from the Ebola outbreak has risen to more than 7,500 people and the number of cases is nearing 20,000.
The latest data reflects recent trends with Liberia and Guinea seeing a decrease in the rate of Ebola transmissions, while Sierra Leone's cases continue to rise.
The three West African countries account for almost all the Ebola deaths recorded so far.
Dlamini-Zuma said Africa needs to better prepare for the next major outbreak of disease, adding lessons had been learnt from the current crisis.