Socialist Worker

Delayed aid and postponed research - the West and Ebola

by Ken Olende
Issue No. 2427

Orphaned children in Guinea

Orphaned children in Guinea (Pic: Unicef Guinea)


As the relentless spread of Ebola continues in west Africa it is clear that the response of the West is counterproductive. 

Meanwhile, more evidence has emerged that development of a cure was delayed because it was not thought profitable. 

Recent reports suggest that the spread of Ebola will continue in west Africa because not enough outside help is being offered. And what is being offered is often not delivered. 

Liberia needs 4,800 treatment beds during November according to the journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases. The US has offered 1,700 beds to all of west Africa.

Experts have estimated £615 million is required immediately to deal with the outbreak, but just £227 million had been delivered as of 17 October. 

Deployment

A spokesperson for the NGO Medecins Sans Frontieres said, “We’ve been calling for massive deployments for several months now and the deployments are always behind the curve.” 

Capitalism seems very badly suited to dealing with Ebola, even in its wealthy heartlands. 

New York doctor Craig Spencer was confirmed as having Ebola after returning from a tour treating the sick in the west African state of Guinea. 

The immediate response from the states of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Illinois was to quarantine health workers returning from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea—where Ebola is out of control. 

This was despite medical experts stating that such a blanket quarantine is counterproductive. 

It would achieve nothing in the US, but would discourage the very people who could help stop the outbreak from travelling. 

This panic measure was abandoned on Monday.

Several drugs are in development, but none have been field tested. Ebola can be halted by isolating people who have caught it and tracking its spread, but a cure would make the process much easier.

Cure

“There’s never been a big market for Ebola vaccines,” said Thomas W Geisbert, part of a team that came close to finding a cure in 2005.

Then, scientists produced a test vaccine that was 100 percent effective on monkeys, the New York Times has reported. 

At the time they said they hoped to have a viable drug available by 2011. But the field testing was never done. 

The pharmaceutical firms couldn’t see a market to make a profit on the drug, so left it on the shelf.

Last week the first Ebola case was reported in Mali, which borders Guinea. 

The British government is still deporting people to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea even though the Foreign Office advises “against all but essential travel” to those countries.

The Home Office said in a statement, “Enforced returns to countries affected by Ebola are only undertaken if it is judged safe to do so.”

Meanwhile Australia has introduced a blanket ban on visas to people from the affected countries.


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