By Ainebyona Isaac
The African continent has been making news headlines on several international media channels namely CNN, Aljazeera and the BBC not because of any significant achievement but because it’s battling a disease outbreak Ebola in West Africa.
It’s now close to nine months since the first cases of Ebola were reported in Guinea. Ebola has claimed thousands of lives in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone the current estimates from World health Organization has put the death toll at over 10,000 including health workers, children have been orphaned and this has created fear and stigma on West Africa.
Many countries in the developed world have called for the cancelation of flights and travels to and from West Africa.
The governments of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone took long to realize that it was actually Ebola that was claiming lives. Many of the leaders thought it was another form of cholera or lassa fever. They underestimated the impact Ebola would have on the population
In Uganda medical workers abandoned a health facility in Mpigi because they couldn’t contain the Marburg virus.
It’s just now that the International community is waking up to combat the disease in West Africa because it poses a threat on their people. Now the World Bank and the United States are stepping up their efforts in combating Ebola which has turned out to be one of the worst humanitarian crisis Africa has faced.
This comes after the World Health Organisation (WHO) and medicine san frontiers (MSF) have all criticized the international community for ignoring the Ebola virus when the first cases were reported.
Dr. Jim Yong Kim the World Bank director has appealed for over 5,000 volunteers to help in combating the Ebola Virus. GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) a global drug manufacturer has manufactured experimental drugs and vaccines to help in treating people infected with the Ebola virus.
My question is why after 38 years since the Ebola Virus was discovered in the Democratic Republic of Congo there has been no effort from African Governments to thoroughly deal with the virus. Uganda has in the past successfully fought the virus even with a dysfunctional public health care system but there has been no serious research into the vaccines that can help in the treatment of Ebola cases.
According to the world Health Organisation those who have died from the virus it has been through physical contact with those infected with the virus most notably during the burial process. The origin of the Ebola virus is believed to be from monkeys, bats and other wild game meat that the people of West Africa hunt for food.
Illiteracy has also played a significant role in escalating the virus. Many communities in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone believe that the virus is a curse on their families and that the ‘gods’ are unhappy with them and as a result rather than openly report cases of those infected with the virus they have opted to hide them away from the public. Liberian President had to issue a stun warning to any family that was found hiding patients afflicted with the virus that they would face punitive action.
The Ebola Virus in West Africa has exposed our levels of unpreparedness to deal with our problems. Doctors in Liberia were overwhelmed with the rising cases of patients some had to abandon their duties while others went on strike over unpaid wages.
It’s totally disheartening that African governments are unable to deal with this humanitarian crisis.
Many African Leaders including President Museveni preached the message ‘African solutions to African problems’. Now this is the time African leaders should have stepped up and proved to their people that Africa can actually solve it’s problems.
Africa has experienced so many disease outbreaks from HIV, Cholera, Hepatitis, Ebola, and nodding syndrome.
There should be efforts from African leaders to invest in Research and development. Even after 38 years since Ebola was discovered no African government has taken the initiative to develop vaccines to deal with the virus.
Former UN Secretary General Koffi Annan while appearing on CNN summed it up that if Ebola had broken out say in the United States of America, United Kingdom there would have been a rapid response but because the disease broke out in a’ poor man’s continent’ Africa the response has been slow.
There should efforts to constantly motivate health workers, doctors with training and better pay in exchange for accountability and hard work so as to ably contain such humanitarian crises.
Today it is Ebola, tomorrow it will be another disease outbreak that will claim lives. Our levels of unpreparedness in dealing with the Ebola virus should be a lesson to our leaders to invest heavily in the health sector.
Why must Africa always wait for the west to solve some of It’s problems?
(Isaac Ainebyona is a writer and On-line News Editor www.entebbenews.com)