West African governments and aid agencies face a number of challenges in attempting to contain the Ebola epidemic, which health officials say threatens to infect more than one million people by early next year. Containing the outbreak will require a massive international response similar to that coordinated after the 2004 South Asia tsunami. CFR’s John Campbell offers three things to know about Ebola and West Africa:
- Popular Suspicions: Many residents of Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia—the epicenters of Ebola—are distrustful of their leaders, and some view the disease as witchcraft, says Campbell. As a result, many Ebola victims and their families have resisted government-led efforts to control the outbreak.
- Communication Issues: Governments and aid agencies face major communication problems in West Africa, which is a multilingual region with low literacy levels, explains Campbell. In addition, efforts to educate the population about Ebola were developed late.
- A Global Problem: Governments in the region battling the disease need resources that only foreign partners can provide. "International efforts similar to the global response to the South Asian tsunami could help stop the spread of Ebola in West Africa," says Campbell.