By Claire Wanja/Statement
Global telecommunications company Bharti Airtel Africa has been recognized by the African Union for its efforts in fighting the Ebola epidemic that hit West Africa in 2014.
Speaking during the 26th Ordinary session of the Assembly of the African Union (AU) – at an appreciation ceremony for stakeholders who supported the AU’s intervention in the Ebola epidemic – Chairperson of the Commission (AUC) H.E. Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, recognized and acknowledged Bharti Airtel Africa, alongside other corporations as a hero in the fight against Ebola.
“I pay tribute to those who were at the frontline; those who paid the ultimate price with their lives, the private sector who initiated the cell phone SMS campaign that enabled citizens to contribute financially,” said Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma
Airtel Africa, alongside the AU and other telecommunication companies, initiated “Africa Against Ebola” SMS resource mobilization campaign to raise funds for the fight against Ebola.
This was the first time, mobile network operators across Africa partnered the AU Commission. The initiative, which operated under the hashtag, #AfricaAgainstEbola, used an SMS platform to raise funds for the deployment of African health workers to affected countries.
Through the campaign, Africa Against Ebola organization raised a total of $37,000,000 being contributions from some countries, NGOs, corporations and international institutions.
Airtel Africa Vice President for Corporate Communications Mr. Michael Okwiri, who represented the organization at the 26th Ordinary session of the Assembly of the African Union remarked: “We are humbled by this recognition. Airtel’s participation in the AU’s Ebola mitigation efforts was informed by the organization’s concern around the epidemic.”
The Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) broke out early 2014 in what was termed as the largest and most complex Ebola outbreak since the Ebola virus was first discovered in 1976.The disease claimed over 11,000 lives in the most severely affected countries – Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
This sporadic spread was largely blamed on weak health systems, lack human and infrastructural resources as they had only recently emerged from long periods of conflict and instability
“Airtel Africa’s employees came together as an entire organization to leverage its technology and know-how to support the initiative, especially the team in Sierra Leone” Mr. Okwiri explained.
On August 8, 2014 the WHO Director-General declared the West Africa outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern under the International Health Regulations (2005).
As of January 2016, the countries have since been declared safe.