, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 9 – President Uhuru Kenyatta on Friday called for a review of the Ministry of Health and Kenya Airways decision to suspend flights to three Ebola ravaged West African nations.
He said that in the spirit of Pan-Africanism, Kenya cannot afford to isolate its “kin” in times of trouble and should instead stand in solidarity with them.
“Bwana MD,” he told Kenya Airways Managing Director Mbuvi Ngunze, “when you get there (Liberia and Sierra Leone) you need to see how we shall resume flights there so we can visit with you from time to time,” he said to the 170 health workers who left Kenya Friday for the Ebola hit-nations on board two chartered Kenya Airways planes.
President Kenyatta met the doctors, nurses, lab technicians and morgue attendants at State House prior to their departure.
They are to form part of the African Union (AU) mission in the said countries in the effort to combat what has been the worst Ebola outbreak in history having claimed over 8,000 lives.
They are also the first of the 319 health workers Kenya has committed to the AU effort.
President Kenyatta expressed pride at their “bravery” and asked them put their safety first even as they worked to save the lives of their “brothers and sisters.”
“Please, please, please, look after yourselves. That is the first and most important principle. You are there to help your brothers and sisters but we here in Kenya want you back,” he said.
A visit from him, he told them, was also a possibility.
“As Amina (Mohamed) has said, we will do everything we can. Even I will try to come visit,” he said.
In reference to the lifting of the flight suspension placed on Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia in August, Macharia told Capital FM that a review was due.
“Well, things are getting better in terms of risk assessment. When we banned the flights the fatality rate was about 60 percent. Now it’s gone down to 35 percent. So with that we shall now be reviewing to see is it the right time to go back? But we’re getting closer and closer,” he said.
The AU, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a number of international aviation authorities in addition to the World Health Organisation have called for the resumption of flights to the Ebola ravaged nations.
They argue that it is hampering relief efforts and that the risk of transmission via air transportation is minimal due to screening at airports and the fact that the disease is only contagious once the symptoms begin to exhibit themselves.