Ebola is not showing the international community at its best. Even as Ebola panic seems to be spreading internationally, with possible new cases in Macedonia and the Czech Republic and Ebola deaths in Spain and the United States. Drew Hinshaw and Betsy McKay in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) provide a run-down of which countries are doing what. It is discouraging.
The United States is doing the most, having pledged four thousand troops and four hundred million dollars. It is also providing sixty-five U.S. Public Health service commissioned officers to staff an Ebola ward in Liberia. The WSJ also reports that more than 2,600 American health volunteers have signed up on a government website for possible deployment by NGO’s. However, the WSJ also reports that Congress has held up most of the Defense Department’s request for one billion dollars to combat Ebola, pending a strategy to protect the U.S. military from infection. The WSJ and the New York Times (NYT) report instances in which Ebola is being used as a partisan political football in the run-up to the American mid-term elections in November.
At least the United States is doing something, though almost certainly not enough. China – Africa’s biggest trading partner – is providing one million dollars in cash along with two million dollars in food and specialists each to Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. In addition, China is sending 170 medical works to Liberia. There are at present fifty-eight Chinese at an Ebola treatment center, but thirty-five of those personnel are “drivers , handymen and chefs.” So much for ‘China in Africa.” India, another major African trading partner, has pledged $12.5 million, but no medical personnel. Brazil, a third major African trading partner, has contributed about $413,000. All South Africa has done is send a mobile lab to Sierra Leone. Japan is donating forty million dollars; Toyota is also donating automobiles. France, deeply involved politically in francophone Africa, is building a fifty-bed clinic in Guinea staffed by fifteen French medics. The UK is sending an additional 750 medical personnel to build clinics in Liberia and Sierra Leone. With respect to its size, Cuba has made by far the greatest effort, sending 165 medical personnel to West Africa.
All of this is a drop in the bucket. Via teleconference the heads of state of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone laid out their countries needs at the annual World Bank/International Monetary Fund meeting in Washington, DC, on October 9. According to the NYT, Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma said his country needs 1,500 more beds; 5,250 medical workers (750 doctors, 3,000 nurses, 1,500 support staff); 200 ambulances, 1,000 motorcycles, and 200 vehicles for burial teams.
Meanwhile, the logistical problems mount. The NYT reports a Japanese official as saying that twenty thousand sets of protective gear sent from Japan are stuck in Abidijan, Cote d’Ivoire. The President of Guinea has appealed to the prime minister of Cote d’Ivoire.
Time would seem to be of the essence. The NYT reports that Doctors Without Borders (Medicins san Frontiers) reports a spike of new Ebola cases in Conakry and quotes a field coordinator as saying that there are new transmission chains “whose origins we don’t know at the moment.”