By Jeremy Bamidele
Amid the crisis of epidemic proportions, nurses in Liberia’s largest hospital, John F. Kennedy Hospital, are declaring a strike. Among their demands is safety equipment to prevent medical personnel from contracting the disease. They are also seeking a raise in salaries. Liberia is currently suffering the worst from the disease, accounting for 700 of the 1500 deaths worldwide. The announcement comes at a time when the country is in serious need of health personnel.
“I wish I didn’t have to say this, but it is going get worse before it gets better,” stated CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden. The disease is currently spread across four countries. If things don’t change soon, the death rate will eclipse 2,000. The rapid spread of the disease follows what can only be described as a shamelessly poor response on the behalf of neighboring countries and the world at large to come to the aid of the original 3 countries during the onset of the virus.
World Bank President Jim Yong Kim expressed his opinion in a newspaper declaring that people are dying needlessly because of the world’s “disastrously inadequate response” to the outbreak. President Kim then goes on to state that many western healthcare facilities possess the technology to contain the disease, but are instead remaining under involved in the crisis.
Since the onset several months ago, the disease has penetrated major city centers leading it to spread rapidly, not only affecting the populace of these countries, but also foreign visitors. The penetration of the disease into the city centers is a great loss, which has not yet shown its true cost in lives and infection rates. As mentioned in my previously article “Ebola a Potential Epidemic,” containment efforts will be severely hindered once the disease moves into urban centers at which time it will become a global transnational health risk. The penetration of city centers has come to past, leading to a reiteration of the question, “When will help come?”
The UN’s food and agriculture department has recently put out a warning stating that Ebola is putting food harvest at, “serious risk.” The quarantine zones and restrictions on the movement of goods is hampering the ability of food workers to transmit food across provinces and country lines. According to Vincent Martin, head of the Food and Agriculture Organization Dakar-based Resilience Hub, “prior to the Ebola outbreak, households in some of the affected areas were spending up to 80% of their incomes on food.” The quarantines while helping to restrict the movement of the virus will likely lead to wide spread malnourishment. This will likely have domino effect, lowering the immune systems of people contained within these countries, making them more susceptible to bacterial and viral infections, including Ebola.
By all indicators, Africa and the world are losing the fight against what has become the largest Ebola epidemic in history. If things are not done soon, many more lives will be lost and not just African ones.
Jeremy Bamidele is a nationally syndicated journalist and adjunct faculty for Rancho Santiago Canyon Community College District. He can be reached at Jbami@sas.upenn.edu.