Ebola was first identified in 1976, in Democratic Republic of Congo; if it was not unfamiliar why was the world caught unawares?
Of course it was only Africa’s problem! Ebola only invited due attention when it left African shores. The West woke up when they saw blood. Aid was rushed. Several medics volunteered, many perished serving humanity, some overcame it in sheer grit- case in point, brave heart, British nurse, Will Pooley who came to serve, caught the disease himself and overcame it to resume work in Sierra Leone!
Europe was first to open its wallets. World bodies begged. Rest of the world followed. Asians participated too. Back home India contributed $12,650,000. As always China was far ahead. International Monetary Fund (IMF) also relaxed its usual stand for developing countries. ‘The conspicuous unpreparedness of countries like Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone is a direct consequence of years of insufficient public investment in the underlying public health infrastructure’, notes Rick Rowden in his article ‘West Africa’s Financial Immune Deficiency’.
The historic spread of the disease is attributed to not just poor health infrastructure in West Africa, but also the ritual practices that accompany a deceased in the region, ignorance, taboo and slow international response. The fact that it is third world seed fueled its easy spread. The world closed doors to everything African. Flights were stalled; trade halted. Isolation became the way and ‘quarantined’, a reformist term! 5,000 plus deaths, 10,000 plus victims, several thousands of families disoriented and at least 3 nations quarantined- from the world.
An irreversible damage has been chronicled for the entire West African region. Guinea has seen a decrease of 35 per cent of its paddy rice harvest and an overall 1.5 per cent loss of GDP. Sierra Leone’s agriculture minister said, ‘The economy has been deflated by 30per cent because of Ebola’. The impact was felt in every sector. Guinean airport at Conakry recorded a decline of 60 per cent in number of weekly aircrafts. With flight destinations for three West African countries barred, other African countries have been deeply impacted too. Kenya Airways has reported a Sh10 billion loss for the half year ending September.
Loss through external interfaces of transport, tourism, export and import were immediate effects. What happened internally in these countries and the region overall, is far more grim. People don’t anymore shake hands to greet, mothers don’t touch! They are mired in skepticism.
Ebola has only added to the misery of discrimination Africans have to face. Just as the continent puts up with yet another setback, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia fight on valiantly-pooling all resources. They have campaigned their way about. Ebola has been contained if not completely won over.
Senegal was first to be declared Ebola free. Nigeria followed suit, as it skillfully waged war at the entry point and won. And while we wish health to West Africa, time has come to assess how prepared is India to fight Ebola.