Econet joins fight against Ebola

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Limpho Sello

ECONET Telecom Lesotho has joined the fight against the Ebola virus disease (EVD), with the mobile telecoms operator handing over M176 000 worth of information, education and communication material to the Ministry of Health on Tuesday.

The material included 50 infrared thermometers, posters and flyers which outline preventive measures as well as signs and symptoms of the virus. The material has since been distributed to all the country’s border posts as well as district hospitals.

During the handover ceremony, Econet Telecom Lesotho Chief Executive Officer, Nico Heyns, revealed the firm attaches great importance to partnering with the Ministry of Health to ensure the deadly virus does not affect the Mountain Kingdom. Despite a number of scares, Lesotho remains EVD free and Mr Heyns said the company would help to ensure the country was ready if there was an outbreak.

“The Ebola virus is not just a West African disease but affects us all and we need to act,” said Mr Heyns.

“At this time of the year, people cross borders to go on holidays, so we needed to take precautions and make sure the material is in place so that preventive measures, screening and information is provided to all the people.”

He added that Econet Telecom Lesotho, together with the Ministry of Health, is at an advanced stage of operating a call centre for the public to seek information specifically about EVD.

When a person calls the centre, Mr Heyns said, he or she will then be referred to a medical doctor who will answer their questions.

According to Mr Heyns, Econet Telecom Lesotho has set aside M2.5 million to assist the ministry in the fight against the pandemic.

On her part, Deputy Minister of Health Nthabiseng Makoae, said she was honoured to receive the invaluable support from Econet Telecom Lesotho, adding that the initiative will strengthen already existing measures being implemented to keep the EVD at bay.

Dr Makoae further stated that government has also set aside M4.3 million to be used in the implementation of the Ebola Preparedness and Response Plan.

The plan aims to provide procedures to be followed in preparing for and responding to the possible threat of the EVD in Lesotho.  The procedures outlined in the plan are geared towards minimizing the number of cases and deaths from the disease.

However, she noted that government still required more support from stakeholders, development partners and the business community, including individuals, to ensure the full implementation of the plan.

“Let me remind you that in June 2014 the Director General of (World Health Organisation) WHO, Dr Margret Chen, declared Ebola as a Public Health Event of International Concern as per International Health Regulations (2005). Countries are expected to take action to prevent the spread of Ebola disease,” said Dr Makoae.

The government of Lesotho, she said, took immediate action to respond to the call by restricting travel to and from EVD-affected countries and developing the response plan which covers the objectives, actions and activities to be undertaken prior to, during and post the epidemic.

The pre-epidemic plan objective is to put in place and sustain interventions for the prevention of EVD in Lesotho. The objective during the epidemic is to reduce deaths from EVD and minimize the spread of the disease amongst the population of Lesotho. Lastly, the post-epidemic objective is to strengthen recovery and preventative measures in order to avert future EVD epidemics.

 

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