African countries should put healthcare first. Without the medical charities like, Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) many people who have contracted Ebola would die for lack of medical care. Resources matter. Nigeria, one of the wealthiest African nations appears to have contained Ebola. Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, some of the poorest, have not. Lack of basic sanitation, weak healthcare systems and inadequate numbers of doctors, nurses, emergency personnel and technicians, a condition that affects the whole of the continent, cannot have helped. The video below gives an indication of the scale of the issue.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has just announced that the Ebola outbreak death toll has risen above 4000 and informed statisticians working outside of the continent have made projections which show the exponential rise of the disease. The projections of 1.4 million cases by Jan 2015, seem like a nightmare and with the arrival of Ebola in Europe and in the USA, even more telling.It is heart rending that so many people will have to die before the disease is controlled as it continues its exponential rise.
There are heroic people who are putting their lives on the line to combat this disease from within and outside the continent.
MSF have displayed on their website an interactive guide to an MSF Ebola treatment centre. The clarity of thinking, organisation and execution is first class, but even they are stretched to the ultimate limit. In many cases it appears that they along with many other medical charities and their local staff, are the only form of medical care that exists. As the motto of MSF goes: “Medical aid where it is needed most. Independent. Neutral. Impartial”. But there are limits.
When the Ebola crises is over, perhaps it is time for the African Union, to take a more visible and upfront leadership and co-ordinating role in managing diseases of this nature through the creation of an African Centre For Diseases Control, with a simple mandate:
- To create a network of advanced local disease monitoring centres in each African country using on the ground scientists
- Build a centralised facility in Africa devoted to understanding the epidemiology, science and management of diseases specific to the African continent.
- Link the network with the CDC, other global bodies and interested NGOs on the ground until it is self-sufficient.
- Create a rapid response team made up of medical personnel from across individual African countries, where the more developed can assist the least developed with proactively defined protocols to deal with the most likely outbreaks
- Identifying key Medical and nursing colleges across the continent that can act as conduits to train individuals across the continent who in turn can lead more localised training.
- Work with individual countries to boost sanitation, health care infrastructure and training utilising the best medical and nursing schools across the continent.
Everyone wants to see investment in bridges, skyscrapers and motorways across the continent they are after all, the tangible indicators of economic progress. However, without strong healthcare systems and a confident people who can believe that should there be another crises of the Ebola type, their healthcare system will be sophisticated and resilient enough to take the lead in putting up at a capable fight.