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The World Must Unite to Fight Ebola Plague

Authors: Laurie Garrett, Senior Fellow for Global Health, and Maxine Builder, Research Associate, Global Health
August 10, 2014
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It followed a two-day meeting which concluded that the chaotic response to the haemorrhagic disease in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the estimated 70 per cent fatality rate and its spread to Lagos, Nigeria, signalled danger for the entire world.

Now what? Most people, including medical and scientific experts who ought to know better, imagine a vast military-style team of disease fighters will be activated, flying millions of dollars' worth of supplies, hundreds of superdoctors, cures and vaccines into the affected areas.

As in the movies Americans, Britons and French will ride to the rescue, propelled by generals from the WHO commanding a militarily precise operation, all greeted by grateful, cheering Africans.

Nothing could be further from reality. Unfortunately there is no clear framework for leadership in a globalised epidemic.

As is the case with most of the gravest threats in the 21st century (terrorism, financial collapse, climate change, resource scarcities, cyber-insecurity) epidemics that cross national boundaries must be tackled on a global scale, though the mechanisms of response are paltry. The three desperately poor countries most affected by the Ebola outbreak are now being isolated by other governments.

A de facto wall is being erected, rendering the rest of the world death-watch voyeurs. This will deepen poverty in the countries and strain relationships between sovereign nations, even leading to discriminatory policies in some regions against all Africans.

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