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Credit: EC/ECHO/Cyprien Fabre

Panny Antoniou

Since the Ebola Crisis in West Africa began in Guinea in December 2013, it has claimed around 5000 lives and infected many more. The World Health Organisation estimates that around $1bn (£600m) is needed to contain the crisis, however as Ban Ki-Moon, the United Nations Secretary General, notes, the international community has raised barely 1% of this total.

This is especially problematic as the disease continues to spread around the world, infecting people in both North America and Western Europe. This is a perfect example of a global humanitarian crisis which shows no signs of abating and, yet, the great powers of the world remain paralyzed by indecision and indifferent to the damage which this horrifying disease can cause.

The problems created by the world’s lacklustre response to the crisis are compounded by the actions of many of the richest western countries, for whom the crisis simply represents a return to their former territories. France, Britain and the United States are especially guilty of these accusations of neo-colonialism as all three have faced widespread criticism for their failure to provide a global response to what is most definitely a global issue. France recently announced that they are funding hospital beds in Guinea, a former French colony, whilst Britain has assumed responsibility for containing Ebola in Sierra Leone, a British colony until 1961. In addition to this, America has provided the majority of their aid and military presence in Liberia, a country established by freed American slaves which currently has the largest number of people infected with the virus.

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Credit: United States Mission Geneva

This shows that, despite these countries giving millions to help fight the disease, the fight against Ebola remains ineffective due to a lack of interoperability between the various aid agencies, as well as the nations that are funding them. Countries that remain vastly unaffected by the disease, but who have the potential resources to fight it, are not doing all they can to stop the virus, thus causing a potential crisis of huge proportions which will become impossible to control. The longer such nations wait before formulating a joint international response to the Ebola crisis, the more serious it will become and the more expensive and difficult it will be to contain.

 

However, it is not all doom and gloom, as many countries that perhaps have fewer resources than that of the UK and America are taking the baton dropped by them and providing substantial humanitarian aid to the countries in need. Indeed, Cuba, a state marginalised by the United States of America and its allies as a result of its 1959 communist revolution, has made an emphatic response to the crisis relative to its size and wealth. The Cuban government has sent 165 healthcare professionals to Sierra Leone – the largest so far by a foreign country and has announced plans to train a further 300 medical staff to send to Liberia and Guinea.

In addition to this, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which has experienced its own Ebola outbreak – a different strain which is unrelated to that ravaging West Africa – has announced plans to train 1,000 volunteers to send to the affected countries in a show of African solidarity. Such an enthusiastic response by these countries to contain the virus is – and should be – a source of shame to our ineffective leaders who can do so much more to improve the world in which we live.