CONAKRY: The leaders of the countries devastated by the West African Ebola outbreak vowed at a summit in Guinea on Sunday to eradicate the virus by mid April.
The outbreak, which began 14 months ago, has killed more than 9,200 people in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia and savaged their economies and government finances.
Guinea’s President Alpha Conde and his Liberian and Sierra Leone counterparts Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Ernest Bai Koroma made the pledge after day-long closed talks in the Guinean capital Conakry.
Hadja Saran Daraba Kaba, the secretary-general of the Mano River Union bloc grouping the countries, said their presidents “commit to achieving zero Ebola infections within 60 days, effective today”.
The summit came with infections having dropped rapidly across the countries, although the World Health Organization says Guinea and Sierra Leone remain a huge concern as both have seen a recent spike in new confirmed cases.
Reading a joint declaration from the leaders, Kaba said they “recognized the efforts that have been made by the member states and the international community which have resulted in the decline of Ebola infections and death rates”.
The World Bank said in January the economic damage of the epidemic could run to $6.2 billion, trimming an earlier estimate of $25 billion.
However, the epidemic “will continue to cripple the economies of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone even as transmission rates in the three countries show significant signs of slowing,” it said.