Ebola: Beyond The Hype

This last year has seen the African continent ravished by civil war, Boko Haram attacks, Pirates and the outbreak of the Ebola virus.   

The media, charities and governments reaction has been so overwhelming regarding the Ebola virus of late that one could be forgiven for thinking that Ebola is the biggest killer in Africa, but it’s not.

 ebola

Ebola has so far killed nearly 7000 people over a year, and there are roughly 11.000 people still infected. But however tragic the Ebola virus has been in West Africa, it is nowhere near as devastating as the continuing deaths of 3000 children a day from Malaria. 

ebola outbreak

The first outbreak of Ebola was in 1976 and is believed to originate from fruit bats. This outbreak in 2014 has far exceeded the deaths and cases of all Ebola outbreaks combined since 1976.

Still that is not more than how many die in a year from malaria, in fact 24.000 children die every 8 days from malaria. 

The first reported case of Ebola was a 2 year old boy called Emile Ouamouno. He was from a small village in Guinea and he died on the 6th December 2013. He became known as patient zero. His mother, sister and grandmother all died soon after.

One year later, 7th December 2014, there were approximately 18,000 cases reported according to the World Health Organisation – 6,388 deaths, a number that changes daily– however these figures are believed to be an underestimation.

Currently the virus has a 60% – 70% mortality rate unless you live in countries with better medical facilities and procedures, like the UK or USA.

There is no known cure yet although Z-Mapp has been said to be 100% effective in animal trials. Researchers are also currently using the blood of survivors to attempt to make a vaccine. 

There are 66 non-governmental organisations helping to tackle the virus including American Red Cross , Child Fund , UNICEF, Doctors Without Boarders and the 13 members of the DEC.

All raising money, sending medical supplies, offering practical support and education to help stop the spread further. The DEC alone have raised £14 million including £5 million matched by the government.ebola outbreaks2

Governments from across the globe have sent money, aid, medical staff and armed force personnel to build medical facilities. Helping Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea’s over stretched Health departments, Doctors and nurses try to get on top of the virus. 

The UK and 13 other EU member states have sent support thorough the Civil Protection Mechanism, providing supplies and expertise. Together the European Commission and its member states have contributed over €1.1 billion. 

The UK have also sent Merlin helicopters and RFA Argus from the Royal Fleet Auxiliary in October. Alongside 30 NHS volunteers that deployed in November after 9 days of intensive training by the armed forces in a facility in York.

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The NHS volunteers spent nine days training at a MOD facility in York. The facility is a replica of a Sierra Leone Ebola treatment centre. Photos by Simon Davis/DFID

The World Bank has donated $1 billion for the countries hardest hit – $518 million for emergency response and at least $450 million to help with trade, jobs and the economy.

The African Union released $1,000,000 from the drought and famine fund to help with the fight against the Ebola virus.

Even China has contributed £5.2 million, yet Doctors Without Boarders were reported to have said that even though the worst hit countries in West Africa are receiving aid, it is not actually going where it is most needed – trained professionals to stem the spread of the virus.

WHO’s Director-General Margret Chan has admitted the international community failed to act quickly enough, leaving us “chasing the virus”. Warning that complacency will mean a risk to the west while the virus still exists.

Music to fight Ebola

In November Sir Bob Geldof re-released the classic Christmas song “Do they know it’s Christmas”– originally written to fight famine in Africa – for the fourth time in 30 years.

The song gained support from many celebrities. Top British artists like Bono, Ed Sheeran, Paloma Faith and Ellie Goulding are all featuring on the song.

Shunned by artists like Adele and Emeli Sande. Many asking why didn’t they not only change the words but write a new song. 

The song has been criticized for not being educational or correct in the information on how to be safe with lines like “death in every tear”. Will Pooley, the British Aid worker who survived Ebola has even described it as culturally ignorant and “cringeworthy”. 

A lesser known song to educate about Ebola was written and performed by a collaboration of African artists – Tiken Jah Fakoly, Amadou & Mariam, Salif Keita, Oumou Sangare and others – called Africa Stop Ebola, and arguably the better song.

 

With lyrics that encourage those who are sick to seek out a doctor, and to have confidence in the medical staff.

Their words are important because culturally there has been a lot of stigma regarding those who have been diagnosed with Ebola, their families even those who have survived. Arguably that is why so many deaths and cases have gone unreported.

Lyrics are educational, telling you to wash your hands, not to touch the sick or dead with a chorus that sings “Ebola, Ebola Invisible enemy.”

So why didn’t Sir Bob Geldof either reach out to these artists, support their work or collaborate with them instead of lazily re-releasing a Band Aid song from 30 years ago for the fourth time.

If we look at why celebrities are getting involved, isn’t it really just a PR stunt. They give their time while it is the rest of us that put our hands in our pockets – bar the few that have actually put their hands in their own pockets.

Do they even really care what the cause is providing it gets them some recognition? If they did wouldn’t we see more about the much bigger killers like Malaria, famine and drought every day? Of course we would.  But there is a big media publicity bandwagon and they simply have to jump on it.

Wouldn’t stars like Bono have a better attitude toward tax, considering tax avoidance costs our country billions every year? Taking money from the poorest in our society.

Wouldn’t Sir Bob Geldof have worked with the African celebrities helping them publicise their song?

Malaria

While we have all been distracted by this Ebola outbreak, you could be forgiven for thinking that we had solved the other issues that plague Africa. In fact we are forgetting the bigger killers.

malaria

3000 children die every day from Malaria, by far the biggest killer every year and mostly affects under 5’s.

•According to UNICEF, Malaria still kills about 1.000.000 people a year in Africa, most are under 5’s.

 

mosquito

Malaria is spread by mosquitoes, entering the bloodstream if bitten by an infected mosquito.  90 percent of all malaria deaths occur in Africa even though there is treatment.

UNICEF reports that –

“Low cost, commonly used therapies are increasingly ineffective… 70 per cent of malaria cases are resistant to cheap existing antimalarials…More effective therapies – artemisinin-containing combination treatments (ACTs) – cost ten times more at US$1-2 per adult dosage than traditional anti-malarials.”

Even though treatment is only a few dollars per dose, thousands of children still die every day. For those children that survive the war is not over as they often develop physical and mental difficulties.

There are preventative aids – insecticide treated bed nets – yet only 5 percent of African children sleep under one. Nets cost about $10 each and are believed to reduce the risk by about 50 percent, worth every dollar.

family

The only fundraising that has been featured in the national media this year was EFF. Wayne Rooney and Joe Hart who along with other England team mates signed a four year partnership deal with Unicef to help raise money and awareness for Malaria.

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Source: Mail online (UNICEF)

The story featured in Mail online and Mirror in October yet many people haven’t even heard about it.

Famine and drought also kills about 400.000 people every year although there are some reports that estimate famine kills up to 6 million African people each year. 

Yet as I reported earlier the African Union took $1,000,000 from these important causes to fight Ebola even though famine, drought and malaria all kill more people every year compared to the Ebola virus.

So have we learned anything?

Arguably we could say the media has hyped this outbreak of Ebola completely out of proportion, it hasn’t killed more people than other more serious diseases like Malaria, or famine and drought.

While we must accept there is some risk to western countries, they are minor risks because we have better health care provisions.

There has been a lot of money and aid sent to support those affected as well as medical professionals and armed forces that have volunteered their time, putting their own lives at risk.

Billions of pounds raised by charities, musicians, and governments, though evidence from those on the ground say that it hasn’t necessarily been used in the right way.

The Director-General Margret Chan herself admits that we took far too long to get involved, one may even argue we only got involved when the virus reached our shores.

Maybe we did miss our opportunity to get ahead of the virus, had we acted earlier perhaps it would have been over by now.

But there are brave men and women fighting hard to help eradicate the virus by educating, supporting, providing medical treatment as well as help with burials, food, clean water, and soap which is working.

Things are definitely getting better in West Africa according to WHO, -despite it being a cesspit of corruption- and hopefully we will begin to see improvements and more people surviving.

Question is, have we learned from this outbreak and the time it took for the west to act?  I would hope so, yet evidence from out past suggests that we won’t learn.

One argues that if we look at how we seem to have forgotten about Malaria – a disease that has a cure and preventative aids, but still kills 3000 children a day – One could say that no, we won’t learn.

It seems that the only time we in the west will act is when it is something that causes us to be threatened, or when we are reminded by celebrities and the media.

I’m not against celebrities helping to get charities and causes highlighted, but I am adverse to those who use tragedy to further their own end.

“Always recognize that human individuals are ends, and do not use them as means to your end.”

Immanuel Kant

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