From my point of view, close regional cooperation in the fight against Ebola sounds like the most natural thing to do. Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia are neighbouring countries and their cultures are closely related. Nevertheless the fight against Ebola was done mostly alone, each country on its own.
Lately in the discussions in Sierra Leone it was popping up again and again that the borders to Guinea should get closed down. People were claiming the strong involvement of military and police. I’m wondering if such measures can contribute at all to the desired results. Indeed, Ebola started from Guinea and was carried over the border at the very beginning of the epidemic. But in the following months the virus was spread by Sierra Leoneans within their own borders. Nevertheless, each case in the border province Kambia leads to the immediate suspicion a border crossing traveler had caused it:
What difference makes it anyway? All countries are facing the same situation. With many new cases in the border region of Guinea and Sierra Leone, wouldn’t it make much more sense to start a border-crossing programme to curb the spread of the disease? Social mobilization, awareness raising, more media attention? The number of cases is proof that there is not enough action taken in this regard. Instead it’s preferred to put the blame on the respective neighboring country. Not surprisingly, both countries, Sierra Leone and Guinea, take it in turns to close their borders.
End of March Guinea closed the border to Sierra Leone:
This did not concern Sierra Leoneans, who were demanding as well that the borders should be closed down. Here a fragment from WhatsApp, 17th May:
I can only hope for a stronger sense of regional cooperation in the recovery phase. Welthungerhilfe got active in this regard already: two weeks ago there was a workshop held for members of DERC (District Ebola Response Centre), where two participates from Guinea were invited. Furthermore, Welthungerhilfe started a cross-border programme that is targeting Ebola-affected areas threatened by food insecurity in Sierra Leone and Guinea. Nevertheless – much more should be done to promote regional cooperation. Especially European organisations could share their experience in regional cooperation and encourage governmental bodies to kick-start cross-border knowledge exchange.