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Ethiopian Diaspora High-Level Advisory Council on Coronavirus: Meeting Communiqué March 20, 2020

At the request of H.E. Ambassador Fitsum Arega and coordination of Dr. Yonas Biru and Dr.Enawgaw Mehari, the Ethiopian Diaspora High-Level Advisory Council on Coronavirus conducted a video conference on March 18.

The Council:

Greatly Appreciated and thanked Ambassador Fitsum for reaching out to the Diaspora community to mobilize and engage Ethiopian and Ethiopian American medical doctors, clinical researchers, public health and other experts.

Accepted the Ambassador’s invitation as a call of duty for country.

Underlined the Ministry of Health is the health authority for the country and as such the High-Level Advisory Group should not create alternate or duplicate channels of communication or interventions. The focus should be on providing inputs that informs, advises, and supports the Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office.

Recognized WHO’s announcement that “Africa should prepare for the worst” with the coronavirus.

Took Note with grave concern that a model-based study published in the Lancet (one of the world’s best known medical journals) showed that “the risk of importation to African countries is highly heterogeneous, with Egypt, Algeria, South Africa, Ethiopia, and Nigeria estimated to be at highest risk.”

Emphasized that while the coronavirus is primarily a health crisis, it will have enormous economic and social impacts that could reverse the country’s recent economic and social gains and potentially set it back.

Underscored the threat need to be handled with utmost urgency and aggressive actions, considering it as a potential national security threat.

Committed itself to support the Ethiopian government through high-level advice and recommendations on health policies, strategies, objectives, and priorities to slow and ultimately thwart the spread of the virus.

Agreed its mandate should be limited to COVID-19 at present but can be expanded to a more general health issues, if the Ministry of Health is agreeable.

Acknowledged with deference guidelines issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) but stressed the need to adopt the guidelines to reflect our culture, traditions and limitations in communications network and paucity in health services and facilities.

Stressed the need to pay particular attention to protect first responders, including doctors, nurses, ambulance operators, police officers and others whom the country calls upon to be at the frontline of the war against the killer virus.

Flagged as a priority of first order the government take extreme measures to stop the transmission and spread of the virus, taking into account the limitation in Ethiopia’s medical capacity to handle the treatment needs of infected patients.

Emphasized nothing should be off the table for serious consideration, including complete shutdown of flights from high risk countries, with exception to essential flights to those countries with a very strict screening, isolating and quarantining passengers deemed to pose potential risk.

Noted with Satisfaction the Ethiopian government’s decision to enact aggressive protective measures which included forced quarantine of all entering Ethiopia; ceasing EAL flights to 30 countries; temporarily closing night clubs and bars; and working with regional governments to enhance their preparedness.

Strongly Recommended that future decisions on whether to continue flights in and out of Ethiopia and or to put restrictions on international flights should be made by a panel consisting of EAL, Ministry of Health, health professionals, and other government agencies.

Underlined the need to increase the capacity of testing exponentially and expediting the production of locally made surgical masks to contain the spread of the virus and prepare plan of actions in the event of widespread infection.

Stressed with a sense of urgency that Ethiopia must develop transparent and consistent

protocols to minimize the spread of the virus and mobilize all public resources, including

religious establishments and artists to help emphasize the need to practice health guidelines

related to distance, isolation, hand hygiene, using mask and curtail visits to each other.

Emphasized the importance of establishing an effective communication strategy and

ecosystem to counter myths and misinformation and increase public knowledge on some of

the best practice reminders for health risk communication.

Noted with Emphasis that members of the Ethiopian diaspora in the medical field

can serve as important interlocutors between Ethiopia health facilities, government

agencies and universities and similar institutions in their host countries.

Proposed to establish an official direct line of communication with the Ministry of Health

to streamline the communication and knowledge sharing process.

Called upon all Ethiopian and people of Ethiopian origin in the diaspora and in the

homeland to take the threat of the virus as potentially existential with grave consequences

and mobilize resources to help vulnerable Ethiopians to fight the scourge.

Promised to remain seized of the matter.