October 6, 2014; The Standard Digital (Reuters)
Sierra Leone saw some of the deadliest days on record this past Saturday and Sunday, with 121 patients succumbing to Ebola-related deaths. This brings the death toll in Sierra Leone to 678 and a cumulative total of 3,349 deaths recorded in the region (as of last week) out of 7,492 diagnosed cases, according to the World Health Organization. Liberia leads among impacted nations with 2,069 reported deaths since September 30th.
While at first international aid to West Africa was staggered and inconsistent, now donations and supplies pour into the region from a number of invested nations. The U.S. is sending 4,000 military personnel, and both Cuba and China have sent medical teams as well. However, bureaucratic red tape and politics have impeded boxes of supplies from reaching Sierra Leone, leading to the question of what else is happening to the aid being funneled to West Africa. One container of supplies donated by American citizens and organizations has been sitting on a dock in Sierra Leone since August 9th due to a disagreement about who is to pay for the transportation of the resources. The box, containing gloves, sterilized gowns, stretchers, and mattresses among other supplies, remains abandoned on the dock while doctors and health workers contending with severe shortages. There are three identical boxes waiting to be shipped to Sierra Leone from America as well.
Moreover, NPQ readers may remember that Members of Parliament criticized the UK government for its cuts in aid to Sierra Leone and Liberia. Many held the British government partly responsible for exacerbating the epidemic in the region. Britain has since invested extra supplies and health workers as part of a new €20 million aid package for the effort.
The disorganization in the wake of the epidemic extends from the aid being delivered to the region up to the global attempts to contain the virus. While travel bans have been imposed throughout Africa, Thomas Eric Duncan, the first diagnosed case of Ebola in the U.S., turns out to have lied on his exit documents when he indicated that he had not come in contact with any confirmed cases of Ebola during his time in Liberia. Further, despite efforts to control the travel of infected individuals, on Monday, Spanish Health Minister Ana Mato confirmed the first reported case of an individual contracting Ebola outside of West Africa.
Even with quarantines and additional screenings at borders, the disorganized, slow-moving international and local responses have compounded the severity of the epidemic. Kent Brantly, a physician who had been treating infected patients in Liberia and a recent survivor of the virus, gave testimony in a Senate hearing about his experience contracting Ebola. In a hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee last week, Brantly called the WHO’s response to the epidemic “painfully slow and ineffective.”
“Since [mid-July], there has been intense media attention and therefore increased awareness of the situation on the ground in Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and neighboring countries. The response, however, is still unacceptably out of step with the size and scope of the problem now before us.”
Brantly and three other American aid workers were flown back the U.S. to receive treatment after testing positively for the disease, but West Africans’ only hope for treatment is that which is provided in their neighborhoods.—Shafaq Hasan