International rights group, Human Rights Watch, HRW, has advised West African governments to ensure rights protections as a crucial element in controlling the unprecedented Ebola epidemic ravaging the region.
The group gave the advice on Monday in a statement signed by its Senior West Africa Researcher, Corinne Dufka, a copy of which was obtained in Lagos.
HRW said there had been 4,784 confirmed or suspected cases of Ebola virus disease, EVD, and more than 2,400 deaths across most regions.
These regions, it added, were Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone and in two cities in Nigeria.
According to the group, cases are confirmed in seven of eight regions in Guinea; 10 of 15 counties in Liberia; and 13 of 14 districts in Sierra Leone
HRW further disclosed that there were confirmed cases in the Senegalese capital Dakar, and the Nigerian cities of Lagos and Port Harcourt.
It expressed sympathy to the families, friends, and colleagues of those who had died as a result of the Ebola outbreak, and commended the courage of many health workers and others in caring for the sick.
“Governments in Ebola-affected countries should better protect health workers from infection; limit the use of quarantines, address the gender dimensions of the outbreak.
“They should also ensure security forces respond to the crisis and respect basic rights,” the group said.
HRW also urged donor governments, through international assistance and cooperation, to help such governments fulfill the right to health, and efforts to address the epidemic’s broader impact.
It said: “Given the tragic magnitude of this epidemic, the affected governments cannot and should not be expected to fulfill the right to health on their own.
“The international community must help assume this responsibility, while insisting that governments do their part by ensuring transparency and respect for human rights as they respond to the crisis.”
The group expressed concern about the World Health Organisation, WHO, warning that Ebola treatment centres were overflowing and turning highly infectious patients away.
HRW said the epidemic had resulted in severe contraction of West Africa’s economies and a near collapse of healthcare systems in the worst-affected countries.
“It is reducing access to healthcare for children, pregnant women, and others with chronic and acute health concerns.
“Health workers have expressed concern about the lack of healthcare for, and increasing mortality from, other diseases and conditions like malaria, typhoid, dysentery, and childbirth complications.
“Local non-governmental organisations need increased support to educate the population about the disease and monitor government response, including the use of humanitarian assistance”.