The Case For An Unprecedented Cooperative Ebola Response
By Alston C. Armah
Tales from Ebola affected regions reveal an epidemic leaving trails of harrowing scenes across Liberia and the entire Mano River Union basin (landmass covering Guinea, Ivory Coast, Liberia, and Sierra Leone).
In Liberia, the last few weeks witnessed the inhumane aspect of the fight to contain the outbreak. A young lady, whom I knew through the YMCA, is reported to have died of asthma when her family could not find a hospital to admit her. A young mother gave birth in a public place when a clinic refused to care for her, owing to fear of the Ebola virus. The daughter of a legislator died when Liberia’s largest referral hospital allegedly rejected her on grounds that she needed to be tested and cleared of Ebola before being admitted to the hospital ward. These and many more scenes show the cruelty and horror of the Ebola epidemic. It appears that in an Ebola plagued environment, the norm is to treat any sick person as a pariah.
The outbreak of the Ebola virus in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone is no doubt the largest catastrophe the Mano River Union basin has come to grapple with since the end of civil wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone. The current spread of the virus across the MRU sub region and beyond is having a huge toll on the region with an upward of 4,000 deaths and over 4,000 still infected. Frightening still is the ongoing high risks of daily new infections among the populations of the three countries at the epicenter. Projections showing the best case scenario put the number of possible new infections and deaths as upward of 20,000 people in the coming weeks.
The Ebola pandemic is seriously rolling back major progress that has been made in the last decade. For example, Liberia’s post-war economic development programs and activities have come to an excruciating paralysis. Iron ore, gold and diamond mines have either closed or scaled down their operations. Cross border trade, a major aspect of the economy of the sub region, is almost nonexistent. Incomes from the tourism and service industries have plummeted. Construction and other seasonal works have been halted, increasing the already existing challenge of unemployment, especially among young people. Farming communities are falling short of their already low production capability, a situation which gives rise to looming food shortages and astronomical price hiking throughout the Mano River Union.
Young people seem to be the most affected. Not only are they dying in large numbers, they are also missing out on many things such as employment, training and development opportunities. At the moment, schools in Liberia are closed indefinitely, with no date in sight for the resumption of classes. Vocational training programs are also shut down, leaving a large population of idle, horrified and disappointed youth. Young people who would otherwise be in school or working to produce goods and services are idle, rendering them functionally unproductive.
If the Ebola virus is not contained and fully eradicated in the coming months, it is feared that there will be dire economic consequences. Already, International Monetary Fund (IMF) projections show that there will be losses of upward of $30 billion if the pandemic continues to rage through the region.
Besides the loss of money and economic resources, there will be hundreds of thousands of deaths. This projection is horrifying and should not be allowed to come true. The situation is so dire that it requires an unprecedented cooperative response; the governments of the affected countries together with the international community must race against time to reverse the trend. The fight must be stepped up. The scientists and researchers must get to work to find a cure, lest the whole world be at risk.