~Written by Mike Emmerich, Specialist Emergency Med & ERT Africa Consultant (Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org)
As a passionate and committed African, having spent the past 20 years working in various countries on my continent, and having seen the effects of colonisation, globalization, war as a result of minerals and commerce (funded by big western businesses) and how Africa is marginalised via trade and commerce. Never mind the fact that all the ex-French colonies still pay tax to France, even years after independence!!
It is also true that Africa’s problems are also created by many corrupt Africa politicians and greedy emerging markets in Africa.
What should our response be, in the event of disasters, war, famine or in the case of Ebola (disease outbreaks). As a human race we all live in a global village and we cannot and should not stand by when we see our fellow man/woman suffering; be it in Syria, Ukraine or in this case West Africa (Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia). Every effort should be made to help when and how we can, be it with manpower, resources or financial aid. This is not a regional or Africa problem, but a global one.
The entire Southern West Africa region is still emerging from a decades long conflict (partly made infamous by Blood Diamonds) and their are trails ongoing in the Hague re this conflict. One could even argue that western powers (corporate and country) were complicit in this conflict, hence they should now have at least an ethical (if not moral) motivation to get involved. Far to often we stand on the sides and wring our hands at the mess Africa is in and that it never seems to get out of this mess (that in itself is another long missive for another day/blogpost).
Now the region needs beds (hospitals) and staff to man them, there is a huge shortage of beds. The one thing that this epidemic (as most of them do) has taught us that it is gloves not vaccines that will make the difference. Good basic hygiene, clean water, bleach/chlorine and excellent palliative care in a sterile environment will make a difference. Those who have survived, have survived for these reasons.
All of the above needs to sustainable in the medium to long term and the affected countries must be encouraged through means of trade and commerce to make these changes real and lasting. I know this last paragraph sounds pie in the sky, but the rich western countries and corporates (Large Pharma) in this case must commit to push for it to happen; not for their end gains and an increase in share price (my cynical comment re what is motivating large Pharma in this case), but for the good of the region.
People in West Africa will have to alter behaviours, we won’t stop this outbreak solely by building hospitals. There will have to be a change in the way the community deals with the disease. Changing behaviour which is so closely linked to culture, tribe and religion will not happen in the short term. Meaning that the worst case scenario could come to fruition, which is over 100,000 cases by the 1st of December. (as outlined in some disease modelling programmes!)
Government ministers in the region must focus within their communities and regions on the key ways to manage this outbreak. They need to be out in the field as the voice of government, pushing for the necessary societal changes hat need to take place. The region needs beds, hospitals and basic supplies. Beds and hospitals is not being dealt with as urgently as it should be by local governments, they are waiting for outside funders to step in, they must drive the initiative on the ground and mobilise local leaders to work with their villages to manage this outbreak, otherwise the worst case scenarios that are being punted look scary. Both MSF and WHO are pushing for this, but they need local governmental support.
My closing comment is that gloves not drugs (vaccines) will save the day. Basic good clean sanitary medicine and palliative care, aligned with sound symptomatic treatment will save lives, for that we need beds, hospitals, staff and supplies, from across the globe, Cuba has stepped into the breach while others (Australia) are still wringing their hands.