EDITORIAL: In times of need, the neighbour’s door is always open

Ebola has stopped being the talk of the town and gone global. As it erupted in eastern DR Congo and started spreading southwards, there was reason for concern. All that time it had been contained in the violence-ridden northeast of the country but when a case was diagnosed in the populous town of Goma right on Rwanda’s doorstep, it was all out panic.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared Ebola as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). It meant that there was a likelihood of the virus constituting a health risk to other countries through the international spread of the disease.

The outbreak found Rwanda well prepared to counter the disease to the extent it will now extend its expertise to Congolese officials. They believe Rwanda is doing something right.

Further down to the south of the border, however, in Burundi, a silent Malaria outbreak had been decimating its people. According to the UN, over 1,800 people have been killed this year alone, more than Ebola victims.

Instead of Burundi officials acknowledging the epidemic and seeking help, they hit their heads on the roof  calling it slander; concoctions from their “enemies” and it is not helpful at all.

According to United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), about 5.7 million Burundians, nearly half the population, have contracted the disease this year. But Burundi prefers to bury its head in the sand.

It could always eat humble pie and ask how her neighbor did it. It is all about strengthening regional integration, no shame in knocking on the neighbour’s and inquiring whether there was salt to spare. But it will only be of good use if it is sprinkled on humble pie before swallowing.

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