How can Ebola be contained when globalization is everywhere?

Even more than SARS in 2002, Ebola signifies one of the crucial challenges of the 21st century: pandemics. Moving people, goods and services and flows is a core pillar of globalization. But it is this all-encompassing moving around and across borders that makes it so difficult to fight a global health problem.

Among issues of national pride, superstition and skepticism in affected African nations, the Ebola cause has been fighting to gain air time, recognition and funding against a series of equally newsworthy global conflicts. But the prospects don’t look good. Experts warn that unless security measures are ramped up, the global health issue will not be contained.

  1. Shen Dingli 2 weeks ago

    The answer is to significantly slow, if not stop, the flow of people, at least for a while. This calls for strong governance. Let us take the case of SARS in China in 2003 for example. When SARS spread in China in the spring, the Chinese government initially failed to inform the public properly, causing great fear. Then it quickly reversed its approach by rendering transparency and taking strong measures to combat the SARS.

    It is crucial to slow the flow of people, so as to contain this pandemic. Subsequently university students either went home or stayed on campus. If staying at university, they were not allowed to move around much. Classes were small. For anyone who was having fever, s/he had to be quarantined within an isolated dorm, with food supplied in basket through window. For extreme cases, villagers in the rural area organized themselves to set road barriers not to allow anyone in and out of their town. Meantime, Chinese armed forces instantly set up field hospital with the best containment and medical technology to cure those SARS patients. Chinese medical scientists managed to analyze the disease and produced the right medicine, effectively racing with the time.

    For Ebola, good governance is crucial: slowing, if not stopping, the globalization, or at least regionalization, especially in those areas where Ebola has stricken hard. International medical support, under the flag of WHO, is absolutely necessary. China has sent its medical teams to the Ebola rampant Africa, but more has to follow, including analyzing the virus as to discover the right solution.

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7 Comments

  1. klaus segbers 1 week ago

    I agree with Dingli. To effectively cope with such a challenge spreading quickly across borders, one needs strong agencies – be it governments, or international organizations. Unfortunately, so far we don’t see that in Western Africa. The states we are talking about are so weak that we may call them failing. The WHO is dramatically underfunded. And while there are cameras providing visual impressions about the disaster, the Islamic State Challenge and the messy situation in Ukraine/ Russia apparently dominate the global attention.
    But especially Europe has to watch out. we do register significant flows of refugees from Africa moving North. his may create unpleasant surprises.

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  2. AW 1 week ago

    Slowing down the flows as indeed probably the most important tool in fighting Ebola. We in Europe can only pray, that the FRONTEX will be efficient enough in containing the migrants flows from those regions.
    Another think Mr. Segbers has mentioned is the funding of WHO. Normally I am libertarian, but this is clearly the case, when the free market cannot help to respond to a problem. As long as big pharmaceutic companies have no interest in developing treatment for tropical diseases, fighting ebola will be problematic. It was spectacular, how quickly proper vaccine was found after the first “white” people have died.
    Another big issues is public education. Ebola is horrible not because it is an especially awful disease. It is spreading in a region, where sanitary conditions are especially bad, which is the key to the scope of this pandemic.

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  3. Wisam 1 week ago

    I tend to agree with Dingli’s comments. However, I would say more than “good governance”, what’s required is “responsible government”. Often times governments have a propensity to downplay public health emergencies, in hopes of containing the reaction of the public. This is especially true for those countries whose economies significantly depend on tourism. However, the problem isn’t globalization, as all great technological achievements are a double edged sword. Globalization, and more specifically, the ability to access information, allows us to stay informed. The key is to ensure that our governments have an effective contingency plan for not only disease outbreaks, but also natural disasters, and even nuclear meltdowns. Globalization has made this task much easier, through the internet and the ability to send and receive messages to the public.

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  4. Dima Tarhini 7 days ago

    In addition to the above-mentioned , I believe religion and cultural beliefs can be another challenge to control the infection. Funeral tradition in Africa which involves washing the body before it is buried is one of the main reasons for Ebola spread in the region. Health workers who are trying to fight Ebola keep getting attacked every time they are trying to remove the dead bodies or when they are trying to encourage safe burial practices.
    Local media and trusted sources in the region should be empowered to act as cultural mediators between public health organisations and the general populations .Neither national authorities nor international actors can stop the spread of the decease without engaging local populations.

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  5. Daniel Cardoso 7 days ago

    I also think that it is important to highlight the role of pharmaceuticals in this context. Almost 40 years have passed since the first case of Ebola was identified and, until now, no vaccine has been developed to fight the disease. In this sense, this outbreak seems to be also a result of “market failure”. If there had been investment in research to come up with a vaccine, certainly this outbreak would not have been as deadly. However, it seems that fighting ebola was just not lucrative enough for pharmaceuticals. The number of cases was considered to be low until now and did not justify the investment. As mentioned by AW, the fact they were concentrated in Africa did not help either.

    In the absence of private initiative, the American government decided to invest in research on ebola, but just because there were concerns that the virus could be used as a biological weapon. However, that was also not enough to come up with vaccine either.

    Certainly, an under-funded WHO complicated matters. In the midst of the financial crises, the decision of member states to cut funding to the WHO reduced the organization’s scope of initiative and its role in raising awareness and fighting “outbreak diseases” like ebola.

    Lastly, I agree that there is a noticeable incapacity of the states where the infection is located to deal with the outbreak. In this regard, it is useful to remember that during the 1980s and 1990s, these states were asked by the IMF and the World Bank to severely cut public spending as a condition to receive loans from them. This compromised the reduction of poverty and the development of functional national public health systems in these countries. So, in a way, the incapacity that we now talk about is a result of the “structural adjustment programs” that these organizations imposed on these states in the past.

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