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Vol. 78/No. 32      September 15, 2014

Capitalism fuels spread
of deadly Ebola in Africa
As of Aug. 22 more than 2,600 people have been infected and 1,427 have died in West Africa in the largest outbreak of Ebola virus since its appearance in 1976.

Ebola is a threat almost exclusively in sub-Saharan Africa, where economic and social conditions for the vast majority, many of whom live on less than $1 a day, pave the way for recurring out-breaks and their spread. Because Ebola epidemics don’t pose a direct threat outside Africa and don’t provide opportunity for profit, the development of medical treatment and a vaccine has stalled for lack of funds.

The center of the epidemic is rural Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, among the poorest nations worldwide. It is spreading to densely populated major cities, where the vast majority lack access to modern sanitation or health care.

An outbreak in Nigeria, one of the most industrialized countries in Africa, has been contained. Nigerian Minister of Health Onyebuchi Chukwu told the Nigerian Times Aug. 26 that seven of the 13 people infected have recovered and were discharged, five died, and only one person is still hospitalized.

Ebola is transmitted through direct contact with body fluids such as blood, vomit or feces. In the absence of an effective vaccine, the only treatment is to keep victims hydrated, stabilize their blood pressure and treat infections until the body’s immune system kicks in.

This simple treatment is out of the reach of many of those infected. Sierra Leone has only two doctors per 100,000 people; in Guinea and Liberia it’s just one doctor per 100,000 or less. Medical personnel lack enough masks, goggles, boots, gloves and waterproof aprons, or even running water so they can wash their hands. More than 240 health care workers have been infected and half of them have died.

In the midst of the crisis, the U.S. government’s Peace Corps evacuated all 340 of its personnel in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, including all health education workers. “We do not have anyone involved in Ebola efforts,” Peace Corp public affairs specialist Erin Durney told the Militant Aug. 27.

Government officials in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia cordoned off and quarantined a 4,200 square mile area where the three countries meet, the heart of the epidemic.

On Aug. 19 the Liberian government imposed a 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew in the West Point neighborhood of Monrovia, the capital city. It put up barbed wire barricades around the area, preventing people from entering or leaving. West Point has open sewers and little indoor plumbing or running water.

Hundreds were beaten back by police and soldiers Aug. 20 as they tried to break through the barricades.

“You fight Ebola with arms?” shouted David Anan, one of the protesters, according to the New York Times.  
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