Ebola is only the beginning…

The utter collapse of all health care in west Africa means the horrors of Ebola are only the beginning….

“But Ebola is a warning sign of a much bigger crisis: the fragility of African health and sanitation systems after many years of poverty, illiteracy, neglect and, in some countries, catastrophic civil war. Even in countries that have recently seen impressive economic growth and foreign investment, the money is failing to reach the hospitals and health-care workers who can prevent disease outbreaks.

“Government authority has been almost non-existent in many West African regions, including, crucially, the border crossings in the Ebola hot zone where a million people live. Hospitals and clinics, meanwhile, are severely under-staffed, suffer from shortages of equipment (even such basics as disposable rubber gloves) and medicine, and often lack even electricity and running water.

“Everywhere the signs of state collapse have been exposed. Bodies of Ebola victims, often lie uncollected in homes and streets for days at a time. Some hospitals have been completely abandoned after staff and patients fled. Quarantine efforts sometimes fail because people simply walk around the checkpoints.

“The spread of Ebola out from the villages of southern Guinea, the source of the current outbreak, was fueled by a similar state failure. Guineas first cases were confirmed in March, and by April the virus was taking hold. But the health system was so inadequate, and ignorance so widespread, that many people with the Ebola virus decided to cross over the poorly controlled border to Sierra Leone, where they sought treatment from a herbalist who claimed to have the power to cure Ebola.

“Instead of curing others, she soon became infected with the Ebola virus and died. Mourners at her funeral then spread the disease across the region, according to published reports. The herbalists death led to hundreds of new cases of the disease in Sierra Leone.”

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