Ebola crisis not going away

The Ebola crisis in Africa has fallen off the news wires in recent weeks, but the danger to the world has only grown.

While Liberia is showing encouraging signs of getting the outbreak under control, the nation of Sierra Leone is seeing Ebola cases explode, overwhelming facilities and endangering the population.

Foreign Policy:

Nationwide, Sierra Leone has only 400 Ebola treatment beds, of which 175 are located in and near the capital city of Freetown. The World Health Organization (WHO) reckons the country needs 4,800 Ebola beds.

Mearns, who has served on the front lines of the Ebola fight in Freetown since September, cast sad eyes at the delirious men lolling in the “holding center” — the pen structure out on the street — and said that only 13 percent of suspected Ebola cases ever survive their stays at Connaught long enough to make it to the distant Kerry Town treatment center. She sighed. “I feel we’re yet to get a handle on things. It’s just steadily getting worse and worse.”

Even as world health authorities laud neighboring Liberia for bringing its Ebola transmission rate down from the catastrophic levels seen in September, Sierra Leone’s situation is spiraling out of control. The officially reported numbers of the sick and dead are not to be believed, experts say; the pace of construction of treatment centers lags far behind patients’ needs; most burials and funeral practices remain unsafe; the military has taken control of the national response; and international partners are struggling to work within the government’s control mechanism. The soaring Sierra Leone epidemic was cited by the U.N. Ebola Emergency Response Mission (UNMEER) as the primary reason it did not meet its Dec. 1 target of having 70 percent of Ebola patients in treatment and 70 percent of the dead safely buried. But instead, on Nov. 21 UNMEER reported that only 13 percent of Sierra Leone’s Ebola patients are isolated from the general population to prevent spread of the disease — an astonishingly low figure compared to the more than 90 percent isolation rates reported in Liberia and Guinea. Elhadj As Sy, secretary-general of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, predicted in late October that it would be at least four months before “control” could be achieved in Sierra Leone.

As bad as the governments of Liberia and Guinea have functioned in this crisis, Sierra Leone is in far worse shape because it's government is incompetent and corruption is even more rampant than in the other African countries afflicted with the epidemic.

The corruption in Sierra Leone is incredible:

The $8.3 billion economy ranks as one of the world’s most corrupt and most poorly regulated by all 21 of the world’s leading assessors. For example, in 2014 Transparency International ranked Sierra Leone 119 out of 175 nations (with 175 being the worst) for corruption. More than 90 percent of Sierra Leoneans surveyed by the organization in 2013 said that they had to bribe police and/or judicial officials for all aspects of daily life, from avoiding unwarranted traffic tickets to evading false arrest; most also paid bribes to other government officials.

It's not surprising then that efforts to control the virus run into officials with their hands out. And what needs to be done, doesn't get done, which is a recipe for disaster.

With the Ebola crisis fading elsewhere, it's still possible that the uncontrolled outbreak in Sierra Leone could begin to affect other nations, and even precipitate another crisis in Liberia. The bottom line is that we're far from being out of the woods yet and continued vigilance in the US is required.

 

The Ebola crisis in Africa has fallen off the news wires in recent weeks, but the danger to the world has only grown.

While Liberia is showing encouraging signs of getting the outbreak under control, the nation of Sierra Leone is seeing Ebola cases explode, overwhelming facilities and endangering the population.

Foreign Policy:

Nationwide, Sierra Leone has only 400 Ebola treatment beds, of which 175 are located in and near the capital city of Freetown. The World Health Organization (WHO) reckons the country needs 4,800 Ebola beds.

Mearns, who has served on the front lines of the Ebola fight in Freetown since September, cast sad eyes at the delirious men lolling in the “holding center” — the pen structure out on the street — and said that only 13 percent of suspected Ebola cases ever survive their stays at Connaught long enough to make it to the distant Kerry Town treatment center. She sighed. “I feel we’re yet to get a handle on things. It’s just steadily getting worse and worse.”

Even as world health authorities laud neighboring Liberia for bringing its Ebola transmission rate down from the catastrophic levels seen in September, Sierra Leone’s situation is spiraling out of control. The officially reported numbers of the sick and dead are not to be believed, experts say; the pace of construction of treatment centers lags far behind patients’ needs; most burials and funeral practices remain unsafe; the military has taken control of the national response; and international partners are struggling to work within the government’s control mechanism. The soaring Sierra Leone epidemic was cited by the U.N. Ebola Emergency Response Mission (UNMEER) as the primary reason it did not meet its Dec. 1 target of having 70 percent of Ebola patients in treatment and 70 percent of the dead safely buried. But instead, on Nov. 21 UNMEER reported that only 13 percent of Sierra Leone’s Ebola patients are isolated from the general population to prevent spread of the disease — an astonishingly low figure compared to the more than 90 percent isolation rates reported in Liberia and Guinea. Elhadj As Sy, secretary-general of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, predicted in late October that it would be at least four months before “control” could be achieved in Sierra Leone.

As bad as the governments of Liberia and Guinea have functioned in this crisis, Sierra Leone is in far worse shape because it's government is incompetent and corruption is even more rampant than in the other African countries afflicted with the epidemic.

The corruption in Sierra Leone is incredible:

The $8.3 billion economy ranks as one of the world’s most corrupt and most poorly regulated by all 21 of the world’s leading assessors. For example, in 2014 Transparency International ranked Sierra Leone 119 out of 175 nations (with 175 being the worst) for corruption. More than 90 percent of Sierra Leoneans surveyed by the organization in 2013 said that they had to bribe police and/or judicial officials for all aspects of daily life, from avoiding unwarranted traffic tickets to evading false arrest; most also paid bribes to other government officials.

It's not surprising then that efforts to control the virus run into officials with their hands out. And what needs to be done, doesn't get done, which is a recipe for disaster.

With the Ebola crisis fading elsewhere, it's still possible that the uncontrolled outbreak in Sierra Leone could begin to affect other nations, and even precipitate another crisis in Liberia. The bottom line is that we're far from being out of the woods yet and continued vigilance in the US is required.