How to Solve a Problem Like Ebola
You would have to be living in a cave, under a rock, or in the middle of a desert not to have heard the mass outcry and worldwide worry about the Ebola virus. How much is known about the virus and what is being done to help those affected and or stop its spread?
NHS choices defines Ebola as: ‘a serious, usually fatal, disease for which there are no licensed treatments or vaccines’ and adds: ‘for people living in countries outside Africa, it continues to be a very low threat.’ The virus spreads via contact with an infected person or their bodily fluids, so it follows that those trying to help fight the disease are most likely to be infected. Once caught, the disease can have a 90% death rate and we currently have no proven cures, only supportive treatment.
The WHO had reported 9936 Ebola cases, and 4877 deaths, up to the 20th October. This is a horrifying statistic. The news reports of the symptoms of the Ebola virus are horrifying. It’s hard not to feel some urge to help in any way we possibly can. But what can we do? What’s most important to give? Money? Expertise? Organisation? Security? I don’t have the answers; even the internet doesn’t seem to have the answers. I can’t tell you what will help, but I can tell you one thing; your sympathy isn’t going to stop the Ebola epidemic. Worrying about the one case so far in Europe isn’t going to stop it either.
It seems like the world is at a loss as to how to best provide help. People are worrying about the spread to their own country, but can’t seem to begin to contemplate the preventable suffering going on in West Africa at the moment. The prevailing attitude in the news seems to be stopping the spread to other countries. This is an important goal, but not the most important. 390,000 people signed the petition to save the life of the dog of a woman infected by Ebola in Spain. By comparison, 150,000 people have signed a petition urging the Food and Drug Administration to fast-track research on a potential vaccine and treatment for Ebola. The cartoon (below) makes a similar point; the suffering of those far away is no less, just because it is distant from us.
So far only 26% of the estimated 988 million dollars necessary to stop Ebola in its tracks has been given. We need to start raising money and raising awareness, not only of the virus, but of the steps needed to combat it. Many countries have made pledges to give money, but the reality is that money has not yet come into fruition. I wrote this article because I wanted to do some research into what we in the UK could do to help those suffering in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. It turns out our government has already pledged money to the cause and many NHS workers have signed up to go and organise teams of untrained volunteers abroad, all that is needed is a push to bring these promises into a reality. So what I would advise is to put pressure on the government to fulfil their promise. Never have we had more ways to lobby: Facebook, Twitter, email and even hand-scribed letters. I believe this is the only way we can help.
by Michaela Jewson a.k.a miss Moneypenny (finance for Surgo). Currently doing an intercalated year in women and children’s health