The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Ebola:
The Criminal Passivity of the Great Powers

Oct 13, 2014

This article is from the Oct. 10th issue of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.

The presidents of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, three Ebola-stricken West African nations, made urgent pleas for money, doctors and hospital beds. The UN Ebola envoy said 20 times more was needed to counter the epidemic. The U.S. director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned that unless action is taken, Ebola could become “the world’s next AIDS.”

But the response of the great powers is shameful. French President François Hollande announced that the French army was going to set up a military hospital in Guinea to fight the epidemic “in the coming days.” Three weeks later, not only has this hospital not been set up, but it turns out the Red Cross will have to do it. The Guinean government quotes French officials: “human resources are missing, because of the deployment of the French army in other countries.”

President Obama had promised 3,000 soldiers to Liberia. They are coming very slowly – so far only 300 have arrived. The Pentagon said that U.S. soldiers would have no direct contact with Ebola patients, but would support civilian agencies struggling against the disease.

The UN has created a mission with headquarters in Ghana’s capital Accra, 600 miles from the epidemic. How do you organize the fight against an epidemic from 600 miles away?

Meanwhile, the medical staff of the countries suffering with Ebola and the members of humanitarian organizations such as Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) are struggling practically on their own. Doctors in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone are dying from Ebola: They have not taken the necessary measures for protection, which they are well aware of, because they are overworked and exhausted and don’t have the needed supplies.

The UN is still waiting for the billion dollars it needs to halt the spread of the epidemic in Africa. This sum is ridiculous compared to what is spent by the great powers to wage war and impose their order. The U.S. defense budget is 661 billion dollars, i.e., 1.8 billion dollars a day. Half a day of the U.S. defense expenditure would be enough to save thousands of Africans who are going to die from this terrible disease.

When their imperialist interests are at stake, great powers can mobilize huge means, as they do today in the Middle East or Africa. But with Ebola, when the issue is to save thousands of human lives, their leaders display criminal inertia.