As the world continues to grapple with new problems arising every new day in the Middle East and ponder a feasible solution for Syria and Iraq, especially with regards to the threat of the so-called Islamic State (IS), another tragedy is unfolding in West Africa that has left the world baffled. After crippling two countries and threatening the third one — Nigeria — Ebola is moving fast across continents.
The world media also appears confused as now there are two powerful contenders to qualify for breaking news: Explosions in Iraq or Syria, turmoil in Lebanon and the fast increasing number of Ebola victims.
Unfortunately, the world did not pay much attention to the virus in its early stages. After all, it was just confined to that abandoned continent, which had always been exploited by the powers that be every now and then. Ebola is a dangerous contagious virus and its cure remains elusive. At the onset of the breakout of Ebola in West Africa, health experts hoped that treatments for flu and malaria would help but that approach did not work and anyone who came into contact with the virus contracted it immediately and resulted in death.
In the beginning, the World Health Organization (WHO) seemed reluctant to allocate funds for Ebola treatment, which was associated with Africa as a killer that cannot be stopped. Liberia and Sierra Leone, which are the two countries where the epidemic has hit the hardest, were some of the poorest countries of the world and to some people; the proposition of investing into the health care industry did not appear to be a commercially viable option. Francis Collins, head of the National Health Institute admitted that Ebola vaccine could have been found a long time ago if it hadn’t been for the budget cuts. He also said that if necessary funds had been allocated, they would have been a year or two ahead of where they were, which would have made all the difference.
The number of people, who have died of Ebola in West Africa, has reached 5,000 and entries/exits to and from both countries have been stopped. Unsurprisingly, the economies of both countries have collapsed. It is estimated that by the end of next year, the cost of the disease to the West Africa economy will reach $32 billion, which is already a very poor region of the world. And no one knows how many more people will die. Ebola remains shrouded in mystery, with no known cause or treatment. It can be neither understood nor stopped.
After having claimed thousands of lives for months, Ebola has finally begun to grab the attention of the world. And the reason for that is Ebola cases are now being reported in the US and Europe, too. Since Ebola spreads only by contact, the places that Ebola patients touched until they reached their countries and the people they got in contact with during that time, makes the situation even grimmer. At the moment this disaster is the only thing that health organizations are talking about. Top newspapers have finally begun to cover the news, and famous TV channels begun to invite experts to broach the subject. Suddenly, the World Health Organization has started seeing Ebola as the most serious health crisis of modern times.
Ebola is indeed one of the most worrisome and rare health disasters that the world has ever encountered. And ignoring the problem doesn’t eliminate it. The fact that Ebola cases are now seen in Europe and the US show that this disaster is spreading all around the world. Surely one would have wished that the world had started paying attention to this danger before the two African countries were completely quarantined, and before so many lives were lost. If this indifference resulted from an “I don’t care what happens as long as it doesn’t hurt me” mentality or if it is a result of financial concerns, we have to emphasize a very important fact one more time: Terrorism, diseases and disasters are like cancer. They can spread to the whole body one day. Therefore, it is important that countries act with the intent of protecting the entire humanity, and not only “their own race, country and future.”
Surely, there are steps that can be taken against this mysterious disaster that is threatening to take over the world. First of all, an additional special effort should be launched for quarantine conditions in the three West African countries. The US has sent healthcare teams to the region recently. However, in addition to that, it is important that people diagnosed with the disease are placed in a special location where they cannot get in contact with the outside world, but where they will be taken care of very well and feel very comfortable. The establishment and implementation principles regarding such regions should be on a par with those of Europe and the US. In order to ensure this, the western world needs to take action.
Francis Collins said that he’d like the Congress to pass emergency supplemental appropriations to help with the efforts even though “no one seems to be enthusiastic about that.” He also said that they were trying to find a breakthrough, but the best-case scenario would be for a clinical trial to start in December, and it would take until February or March to know if the drug worked. Obviously it is a very long time. Considering that thousands have died only in a couple of months, it is clear that such a scenario would have alarming consequences.
US, which has used billions of dollars worth of weapons in a matter of minutes, hitting the targets in Iraq and Syria, can obviously find a solution to Ebola by spending a lot less. We wouldn’t want to see more lives lost neither in the USA nor in the Africa or in other parts of the world due to this horrible disease. However, if urgent precautions are not taken, it is very likely that the disease will spread all around the world. The consequences of this disease, which can spread even through a glass you will hold, can be very serious as it can affect anyone, be it young or old, Muslim or Christian, women, men or children. It is clear that ignoring Africa in the beginning only exacerbated the problem. The sole superpower, US, and other countries need to allocate funds to find a cure to this disease and make it their top priority to solve this problem.
Adnan Oktar's piece on Caravan Daily & Arab News: