Spike in West Africa Ebola cases shows need to address underlying healthcare needs
Back in May this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported a substantial increase in the weekly total of new Ebola cases in both Guinea and Sierra Leone, and responded by deploying a response team.
This comes in the shadow of the success in Liberia that was proclaimed to be Ebola-free in May, (but they experienced further localised cases in June) the result of a comprehensive response by President Barack Obama and his administration to invest in Liberia’s healthcare infrastructure.
The US provided personal protective equipment, funded and trained medical workers, deployed laboratories, supported disease tracing, and started a large-scale social messaging campaign to inform Liberians about practices to protect themselves from infection.
The lesson from West Africa is clear: For their own safety and for the long-term stability of the African economy they need to assist with investments in healthcare infrastructure of West Africa – from hospitals and clinics to medication and vaccines and training doctors and nurses.
With more than 26,000 reported cases of infection and more than 10,000 recorded deaths, the crisis has been the largest and most geographically widespread outbreak of Ebola ever recorded. Beyond its devastating death toll, the crisis also devastated the region’s economy.
In March, the United Nations reported that West Africa, as a whole, may lose an average of at least $3.6 billion per year through 2017 due to a decrease in trade, closing of borders, flight cancellations, and reduced foreign direct investment and tourism.