Ebola: What is the role of Africa?

Since the outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in West Africa last year, over 9,000 people have lost their lives. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) the disease has been contained. In fact, the number of Ebola cases are declining rapidly.

For Africa, this is good news. At least there is progress in containing and ultimately eliminating the disease. According to health officials, the 2014 outbreak is the worst in the history of the deadly disease since its discovery in 1976. As such, the current fight against the disease has been an uphill battle.

The figures speak for themselves. This was a humanitarian catastrophe. To date 3,686 deaths have been reported in Liberia, 3,199 in Sierra Leon, 1,910 in Guinea and around eight in Nigeria. The total number of reported cases stands at 21,797 according to WHO.

Now that the pandemic is contained, it is important for Africa to introspect and ask itself tough questions about its involvement in the fight against the disease. For example, what did other African countries do to help the situation in West Africa? This is the big question that Africa needs to address.

Since the outbreak of the disease, western countries and NGOs have been in the thick of things. The United States as usual was leading the pack. A few months after the outbreak, the US government deployed over 4,000 military personnel to the affected countries in West Africa.

At the height of the disease, US President Barrack Obama requested $6.2 million from Congress to fight Ebola. Other countries like Great Britain, France, Australia, China are currently involved in the fight against Ebola in a big way.  The involvement of pharmaceutical companies and health organisations’ in the fight against Ebola is well documented.

The question is, besides making sure that they curb the spread of the disease into their countries, what have African nations done to assist those affected by Ebola? Not so much. It is understandable that Africa is not a rich continent. Most African countries still rely heavily on foreign aid. Despite this it is not all doom and gloom in Africa.

There are countries that have done well economically. The continent is littered with the so-called ‘Africa’s success stories’. It is shameful that in the face of this pandemic, some of these countries elected to become mere spectators in the fight against the disease.

When WHO, Medecins Sans Frontieres and Centre for Disease Control screamed for help in the form of doctors and nurses, these African countries looked the other way. When the African Union appealed for its member states to send health care workers to affected countries, very few responded. We agree with those that suggest that Africa should be at the forefront in solving its problems. Africa cannot afford to rely on Western countries for almost everything. Africa must stand up for itself.

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