Ebola in Côte d’Ivoire: A False Alarm That Kills The Economy

François M’BRA II

On August 14, 2021, Pierre Dimba, the Ivorian Minister of Health and Universal Health Coverage announced the resurgence of the Ebola virus disease.

“The Pasteur Institute informed the Ivorian health authorities of a case of Ebola virus disease after examining samples taken on Friday from an 18-year-old girl of Guinean nationality,” the Minister, Pierre Dimba, said on the Radiodiffusion Télévision Ivoirienne (RTI).

According to the Ivorian authorities, the young girl from Labé, Guinea is recovering well after a few days at the treatment centre for highly epidemic diseases of the University Hospital Center (CHU) of Treichville.

However, a statement by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday, August 31, 2021, on the resurgence of Ebola in Côte d’Ivoire discredits the Ivorian government even though it puts a smile back on people’s faces.

Discredit and confusion at the top of the state

On Tuesday, August 31, 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that there was “no evidence” of the presence of the Ebola virus in Côte d’Ivoire, according to a new analysis by the Pasteur Institute in Lyon (France) of samples taken from a young Guinean woman presented by the Ivorian authorities as infected with the Ebola virus disease in mid-August.

The statement said: “WHO believes that the patient did not have Ebola, and further analysis of the cause of her illness is underway.”

This WHO statement, although putting a smile back on people’s faces, who were very worried about this highly deadly virus, discredits the Ivorian government and the specialists who do not seem to have taken the various examinations carried out on the patient seriously.

Even if the Ivorian Minister of Health and Universal Health Coverage considers that this “early” warning “was a good opportunity to test the epidemic national response system”, there is no doubt that the credibility and the esteem that people have for their health authorities have taken a blow, especially given the existing polemics on the management of COVID-19 since its onset in Côte d’Ivoire

“It is good news to hear that there is no Ebola in Côte d’Ivoire, but at the same time, it casts doubt on our government. Should we always believe what our authorities say, or should we wait for the international institutions to find out the real story? We have already lost a lot,” says Makan Tiemoko, whom we met in Ouaninou, an Ivorian town on the border of Guinea.

Heavy Tolls in the Ivory Coast-Guinea Border Area

Economic activities in the Ivory Coast-Guinea border areas are strongly affected by this resurgence of the Ebola virus announced by the Ivorian government. Since August 14, all economic activities have been suspended in almost all Ivorian and Guinean border towns.

From traders of basic commodities to transporters and large importers or exporters, all pay the cost of this pseudo resurgence of Ebola in Côte d’Ivoire.

“We continue to raise awareness in the population, but the worst is that all economic activities are stopped at this time. Here, Ivorians and Guineans work together, and we all make a living from trade” says Bayoko Abdoul Razaac, Delegate of the National Youth Council (CNJCI), Ouaninou department.

The transporters who travel to the department of Ouaninou, a border town in the North-West of the country, are in total disarray. They don’t know where to turn.

“We are economic operators, and we make our living from transportation. Since Ebola came we can’t work anymore. Before, we used to make the Touba-Ouaninou- N’zerekore road. We used to earn 30,000 to 50,000 CFA francs a day, but now we earn nothing. Even our wives, who support us, are at home because everything is at a standstill. The first day of school is coming soon, how are we going to get our kids to school? We ask the government to find a solution,” pleads Dosso Inza, head of the Ouaninou transporters.

In Danané, West of the country, a town close to Guinea, the situation is getting worse as the days go by. The market in Gbapleu, a large village on the border with Guinea, is now closed. The collateral effects of the health crisis are increasing.

“You see, we can’t even cross the border, even though most of our customers come from Guinea. Everything we bought is rotting in our hands. We can’t do the market anymore. The little money we had, we used it to buy goods. How will we feed our children now? What did we do to deserve this?” asks Dorice Deazon with tears in her eyes.

The people of the border towns of Guinea are complaining. Over the days, the food basket has to turn into a food purse. Food prices are rising and continue to rise. The situation leads us to the prefecture of N’zerekore, 708 km from Gbapleu, a village bordering Guinea in the West of Côte d’Ivoire.

Here, the hardship is visible, the traders struggle to hold back their emotions. “Sir, we don’t want to talk to you. We thought the Ivorians loved us. But we were wrong.  There is no more Ebola in our country but you have invented cases to plague us. See what you’ve done? I sell meat and the border is officially closed because of Covid. We negotiate to cross the border to sell our goods. But since you mentioned Ebola on a young Guinean girl, everything got mixed up. Today everything is closed. There is no way to negotiate at the border. Everything we bought is spoiled. How are we going to live? asks a revolted Moussa Makalou Binta.

The early warning has a negative impact on economic activities, but from a prevention point of view, the measures taken by the Ivorian government since the announcement of this virus, meet the approval of health specialists and almost all people.

“It is for the well-being of everyone. All of these measures are designed and implemented by specialists. We must follow them to the letter to avoid problems”, warns Prof. KOUA Asseman Medard, psychiatrist and Director of the psychiatric hospital of Bouaké.

The preventive measures against Ebola should be welcomed insofar as, since the appearance of COVID 19, the barrier measures implemented are trampled on under the helpless gaze of the authorities.

As for the Ivorian government, it would benefit from taking the management of health crises more seriously to avoid chaos in Côte d’Ivoire.

Image:  François M’BRA II

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