9 Oct 2014

Ebola: ‘The future of Africa is at stake’

The president of the World Bank warns the ‘future of Africa is at stake’ as the World Health Organisation issues a 60-day deadline to get the Ebola epidemic under control.

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said the future of Africa could be determined by the global response to the Ebola epidemic. “Unless we quickly contain and stop the Ebola epidemic nothing less than the future of not only west Africa but perhaps even Africa is at stake,” he said at a meeting in Washington.

Mr Kim has endorsed pledges from the United States and United Nations to guarantee medical evacuations for healthcare workers responding to the crisis, an effort to ensure that enough doctors and nurses are willing to risk their lives to help stop the disease.

The most urgent humanitarian need – getting medical care to treat people in their own communities – is also the best way to stop the spread of Ebola into other nations and counter the fear that magnifies its economic damage, Mr Kim said. “Trying to block your borders or isolate those countries in some way is not going to work,” he cautioned other nations.

Meanwhile one of America’s most senior doctors has likened Ebola to the “next Aids crisis”.

Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). told the World Bank that it was critical to “work now” to avoid the virus sweeping the world. “Speed is the most important element here,” he said, adding: “this is controllable and this is preventable”.

60 days to act

Thier words came as the World Health Organisation warned that there were 60 days to sort the epidemic out before it went out of control worldwide.

A World Bank report this week estimated that the economic toll of the largest Ebola outbreak in history could reach £20.1 billion if the disease continues to spread in West Africa through next year.

“Every dollar spent now may well be worth more than £12 or £18 spent in two months’ time,” said David Nabarro, the United Nations special envoy on Ebola. “This is a moment when there must be no postponement of financing decisions, no postponement of action.”

Large scale suffering

The Ebola outbreak that has swept west Africa has killed more than 3,800 people. The vast majority of those deaths have been in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

They include 17-year-old Douda Fullah. Since July, his father, stepmother, grandmother, sister and brother have already succumbed to Ebola. He survived and now fears for his future and that of his two surviving siblings as he explains in a moving testimony (see video above).

A Uganda-born doctor, John Taban Dada, died early on Thursday of Ebola at a treatment center on the outskirts of Monrovia, Liberia’s capital. His death brings to four the number of doctors who have died in Liberia since the outbreak. More than 90 health workers, including nurses and physician assistants, have also died.

And a British man has died in Macedonia after a suspected case of Ebola.