Ebola Crisis: How Many Africans Must Die Before the World Acts?

FILE – In this Sunday, Sept 9, 2018 file photo, a health worker sprays disinfectant on his colleague after working at an Ebola treatment center in Beni, eastern Congo. Top Red Cross official Emanuele Capobianco said Friday April 12, 2019, that he’s “more concerned than I have ever been” about the possible regional spread of the Ebola virus in Congo after a recent spike in cases. (AP Photo/Al-hadji Kudra Maliro, File)

Today is the one-year anniversary second eruption of Ebola in sub-Saharan Africa in five years. On August 1, 2018, an outbreak of Ebola was declared in the North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), when four cases of Ebola in town of Mangina were verified. After 426 cases of Ebola were confirmed, the World Health Organization-(WHO) on November 29, declared this to be the second largest outbreak of Ebola in history. The largest outbreak was from 2014-2016 in West Africa that caused 11,310 deaths.  By May 3, of this year over 1,000 human beings had perished from Ebola. As of June 4, the number of cases exceeded 2,000. Yet, it wasn’t until July 17, 2019, after more than 1600 people had died from this deadly disease that the WHO declared a “public health emergency of international concern”. This declaration by the WHO is far short of what is required to combat this killer disease. To date, there are 2,593 infected with Ebola and more than 1,770 have died, according to the The New Humanitarian on line journal.

The fear of Ebola spreading to the city of Goma, a transportation center with a population of 2 million, bordering Rwanda, was realized on July 14, with Goma’s first confirmed case. July 30, health officials confirmed a second case, unrelated to the first. However, on August 1, two additional cases were discovered, of relatives to the second deceased, thus establishing the transmission of Ebola in Goma itself, as reported by AP. Thursday, BBC News reported that the border between Goma and its neighbor Rwandan city, Gisenyi, was closed in response.  On June 11, Uganda reported the first of two deaths cause by Ebola.

The WHO should declare a full international health emergency, not “a matter of concern.” Although the WHO does not have the resources to fully combat this latest outbreak of Ebola, such a declaration would sound the alarm. This could mobilize international institutions like the World Bank, United Nations et al, along with forcing western nations to act.  However, for such an emergency declaration to be issued more Africans must die to meet the criteria of at least 20 deaths in several countries. For now, the world is watching, as Ebola murders more and more Africans. The government of the DRC should also be making appeals to the rest of the world, including Russia and China, who have indicated their willingness to help, if approached officially by the DRC.  A full scale emergency mobilization could potentially provide the impetus to expand the healthcare capacity of sub-Saharan Africa, which is urgently needed.

There is no time to waste. The population of the DRC exceeds 70 million, and it has one of the weakest infrastructure systems in the world. Is Africa, and the rest of the world willing to gamble with thousands, if not tens of thousands or more, lives?

The article below, by Debra Freeman, a public health specialist, provides a good overview of the Ebola crisis. She concludes:

“…stopping this latest outbreak and others like it requires more than vaccines and short-term measures…eradicating the threat of this most deadly of viruses, and others that may emerge in Africa, requires nothing less than an international crash-program mobilization to provide adequate economic conditions (sanitation, water, power, housing) along with the development and implementation of a first-class public health system.”

Read entire articleEbola: World Health Emergency

 

 

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