Médecins Sans Frontières… Ebola – the world is losing the battle

Médecins Sans Frontières: “Six months into the worst Ebola epidemic in history, the world is losing the battle”

Via MSF UK, another well-deserved kick in our collective ass: West Africa: Bio-disaster response urgently needed in Ebola fight. Excerpt:

World leaders are failing to address the worst ever Ebola epidemic, and states with biological-disaster response capacity, including civilian and military medical capability, must immediately dispatch assets and personnel to West Africa, the international medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) announced today in a special briefing at the United Nations organised by the office of the UN Secretary General and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The further spread of the virus will not be prevented without a massive deployment of such specialised medical units to bolster epidemic control efforts in affected countries, said MSF.

In a speech delivered to UN member states, MSF International President Dr Joanne Liu denounced the lack of deployment of resources, which has to-date relied on overstretched ministries of health and private non-governmental organisations, to tackle the exceptionally large outbreak.

International response lethally inadequate

Despite repeated calls by MSF for a massive mobilisation on the ground, the international response has been lethally inadequate.

MSF medical teams have been battling the outbreak in West Africa since March. Non-governmental groups and the United Nations cannot alone implement the WHO Global Roadmap to fight the ever growing and unpredictable outbreak. Transmission rates have reached levels never before reported in past Ebola outbreaks.

Six months into the worst Ebola epidemic in history, the world is losing the battle to contain it, said Dr Liu.

Leaders are failing to come to grips with this transnational threat. The WHO announcement on 8th August that epidemic constituted a public health emergency of international concern has not led to decisive action, and states have essentially joined a global coalition of inaction, she said.

Deploy civilian or military medical teams now

Many countries possess biological threat response mechanisms. They can deploy trained civilian or military medical teams in a matter of days, in an organised fashion, and with a chain of command to assure high standards of safety and efficiency to support the affected countries.

MSF insists, however, that any military assets and personnel deployed to the region should not be used for quarantine, containment, or crowd control measures. Forced quarantines have only bred fear and unrest, rather than stem the virus.

MSF Ebola teams overwhelmed

Funding announcements and the deployment of a few experts do not suffice, said Dr Liu.

States with the required capacity have a political and humanitarian responsibility to come forward and offer a desperately needed, concrete response to the disaster unfolding in front of the worlds eyes, said Dr Liu.

Rather than limit their response to the potential arrival of an infected patient in their countries, they should take the unique opportunity to actually save lives where immediately needed, in West Africa.