•‘60 per cent of spread from burials’
President Goodluck Jonathan summoned governors and their health commissioners yesterday for a meeting tomorrow in Abuja on the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD).
The President spoke at the second interfaith dialogue in Abuja, organised by the Interfaith Initiative for Peace.
He cautioned Nigerians against celebrating burials, adding that 60 per cent of Ebola virus is spread during such ceremonies.
The Federal Government, he said, would continue to secure its borders and airports against the disease.
Jonathan promised to support state governments that do not have the financial capacity to fight the scourge.
He said: “Let me appreciate our children who have performed wonderfully well in their presentations and have also raised the issue of Ebola, calling on our religious leaders to stop the Ebola problem. They called on the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III and John Cardinal Onaiyekan to stop the problem. So, the Sultan and Cardinal Onaiyekan now have challenges. But we will help you.
“As a government we promise we will do everything possible to contain Ebola. We are doing our best.
“On Wednesday, I am going to meet with all the governors. They will come with their commissioners of health. We must make sure that every state is prepared. Where they lack (the finance), the Federal Government will support the state to make sure that they have what it takes to contain the Ebola virus.”
“It is unfortunate that one man brought the Ebola to us. But we have to contain it. This is a good forum that we will use to also plead with our religious leaders because people listen to you more than they listen to politicians.
“In our various preaching in the mosques and churches, we should communicate clearly. I have been having discussions with people outside and within the country since this incident happened. My conversation with the Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO) was quite instructive.
“She said the spread of Ebola, from analysis so far, 60 per cent of the spread is during burials. That’s you will recall that in our announcement we pleaded that we must be mindful of burials. We are pleading that our people, who believe in some kind of ceremonies and so on, that this is not the best period for those ceremonies.”
He added: “If somebody dies now, that person should be buried where he died. When we get over this, you can exhume the body, if you want. The government will provide the medical examiner that will help you to exhume the body for you to go and bury the way you want.
“I am saying so because I have personal experience. In 1971 – I was still in secondary school then – when cholera broke out in my mother’s community.”
Of course, those of us from Southern Nigeria celebrate death. The person who died of cholera happened to be an elderly man. So, they started celebrating him. For days, there was lying-in-state and all that. The whole village was almost wiped out.
“So, when the Director-General of WHO told me 60 per cent of the spread of Ebola is through burials, we must advise our people not to over-celebrate burials now. The dead should be allowed to bury the dead.”
Recounting the genesis of the deadly virus in Nigeria, Jonathan said: “Sawyer (a Liberian-American), who brought this Ebola to Nigeria, also contracted it because his sister died of Ebola. He went for the burial and he participated in a way that he became a suspect. The country asked him not to leave so that he would be observed. But the crazy man decided to smuggle himself out and now we are suffering because of it.
“We are pleading with religious leaders that most of the religious things we do, the traditional things we do, such as the sharing of food and sharing of drinks, unnecessary body contacts and so forth, the spiritual healing homes within this period, let us manage them professionally. Let us listen to the suggestions by professional health workers to save our people.
If properly managed, the President said, the country will get over the Ebola challenge within two months and Nigerians will return to their normal lives.
Jonathan said: “Immediately people stop dying, we can go back to our normal lives. Now, if a Nigerian is travelling out of this country and you have ordinary fever, you will be quarantined. The first thing they do is to check the temperature in your ear. Immediately the temperature is high, they will suspect and quarantine you and test you for Ebola before they can release you to join normal people.
“So, we must work together. We have to sacrifice certain privileges so that we can get out of the Ebola problem as early as possible. Even some of these social media send out all kinds of instructions for people that they should drink salt. Please, don’t drink salt.
“Taking excess salt is extremely dangerous. If you bath with it, it might not hurt you much. That is why you can bath with salt water in the ocean. But drinking it is extremely dangerous.”