Monday, November 10, 2014
Ebola: The moral story in International relations
The World Health Organisation has declared stabilization of Ebola cases in West Africa, specifically in Liberia. The release stated "Case incidence is declining in some districts in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, while steep rises persist in other districts," There are nearly 5,000 reported deaths. The WHO said that more than 4,960 people have died of Ebola, mostly in the three African countries worst-hit by the outbreak. It added that over 13,200 cases of Ebola have been reported in the West African states. What has changed the course of Ebola? The realities that Ebola could spread to the Western World, has seen the most frantic efforts outside terrorism for the World to tackle a health crisis in recent months. Just a month ago, Ebola, seemed like an African problem with each dipping a little something to help the poor Africans to get along. Until the cases were reported in the United States, Spain and now even in Ireland. The cases appeared to have gone all the way to Australia and threatened to collapse the aviation sector which is still trying to find its feet. By 1st September, 2014, Philanthropist Bill Gates had given more than many Western Governments in tackling Ebola. International emergency response organisations such as the Medicines San Frontiers and the Red Cross were reporting crisis level approach to handling of the cases, nobody, paid attention. The month of October reported cases in the Western World has acted as a reactor for the required response from the World self appointed moral leaders. They do preach peace, against nuclear armament, human rights and many other critical issues, whose voice and opinion matters. However Ebola has revealed that moral leadership is what is lacking in tackling global health issues. Perhaps more especially when it affects the poor nations. The hypocrisy of asking poor countries to respect human rights even at the extent of cutting aid, has been glaringly exposed with the Ebola response, allowing the loss of human life, a basic human right just because they are poor, too poor to afford sanitation and getting infected by the Ebola virus. The global response, coming only after the spread of the virus into the West, reminds many of us of the problem of the many killer diseases that the world, especially the moral leaders who scream human rights in the context of personal liberties or political freedoms at the expense of other basic rights such as a right to life, that are yet to be tackled but have been neglected since the essential affect the poorest of the poor, or the bottom billion. Ebola, since it was discovered by Peter Piot, nobody has paid attention to developing treatment or vaccine. Experiments were being conducted at a snails pace that, the only first batch of vaccines are said to be underway and might be only available around mid 2015. The same has been said of why there is no malaria vaccine, one of the number one killers in developing countries. The reason one scientist told me at a health conference, is the cost of research is high and African countries where the problem is endemic cannot afford them. Its a risky business. He said treatment drug research had already recovered most of the costs and it was cheaper and profitable to treat the disease than stop it through vaccine as it would affect the companies that are making a killing from the millions of episodes of malaria that countries like Malawi alone records. Prof. Paul Farmer of Partners In Health was among the sole voices that spoke of the need to treat Extremely Drug Resistant Tuberculosis when it broke in Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa. He said today's world of travel and connectivity is an illusion for anyone to isolate infectious diseases as a problem of one particular geographic location. The reality is that one travel in plane from Durban to New York, as Ebola has demonstrated can become a global health crisis. No problem in this age and era, should be left based on the basis of their financial status, as those with adequate healthcare can easily catch up with similar challenges. To be honest, it is not a question of moral obligation, Africa and much of the poor countries have made a fair contribution to the global development agenda. They have contributed with human life from slave trade to periods of colonization to actual mineral resources. The consequence of poor nations remaining where they are is the ownership of their own resources, poor leadership and the imbalance of trade and many restrictions that the poorest of the poor have to accessing proper and well compensating market and skills. Dealing with health issues, is beyond a moral obligation, it is supposed to be rightly an issue of global politics, just as terrorism or the push for the best deal with Ukraine between the West and the East. The Ebola crisis has proven that with adequate resources and a united approach, any health challenge can be tackled, quickly and effectively. We can all learn lessons from this debacle and perhaps as we set the new development goals for post 2015 start to seriously consider targets to some of the remaining health challenges that can easily be removed from the global health agenda in the next decade also. Ebola has shown us that globalization, means we sink or rise together. No more diseases or issues for the poorest of the poor.