Sep 1, 2014
This article is from the August 29th, 2014 edition of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.
The Ebola epidemic is spreading in West Africa. It no longer affects only isolated villages, but has now struck major cities, most notably Monrovia, the capital of Liberia. The absence of healthcare infrastructure and neglect by the governments of the countries in question have spread the disease and increased the number of victims.
The World Health Organization says four countries are affected with nearly 1,500 victims, but its officials admit that these estimates are too low. Suspected cases have surfaced in several other countries, including outside West Africa. One U.N. official has spoken in terms of a six-month “war” against the virus. For now, the assistance offered by these international organizations appears insignificant given the scale of the catastrophe.
Recently two U.S. citizens were declared cured of Ebola. They had been repatriated to the United States, hospitalized in isolation, and cared for with the most modern treatments, including experimental techniques. They did not transmit the virus to their caregivers or to their relatives. This proves that it is perfectly possible to control the spread of the disease.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, in Monrovia, the army and the police forcibly blocked off a slum of 75,000 people in which there apparently are no medical staff. Certain African countries have attempted to close their borders and several airline companies have cancelled flights. These measures have no chance of halting the progress of the virus. In fact, by making it harder for people to access care and information, they even threaten to further its spread.
However, it is not impossible to combat the Ebola virus within Africa. It is necessary above all to isolate the infected and the dead, to equip medical workers with protective gear, and to supply single-use medical devices. This does not represent a huge expense.
In any case, it would be far less than the amount spent in the wars waged by the rich countries throughout the world.