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THE INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE TO THE OUTBREAK OF THE EBOLA CRISIS IN WEST AFRICA
1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Since the outbreak of the Ebola virus disease which were reported in West Africa in
March 2014 various countries has taken precaution to contain the spread of the deadly virus. According to the World Health Organisation about 15,119 cases of Ebola has been suspected and confirmed within West Africa alone. (WHO, 2014).
The epidemic is disrupting the development progress achieved since the restoration of peace and democracy in the three most-affected countries. As of 10 December, almost 18,000 people had been infected and more than 6,400 had already died. Health services in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone were not well equipped to fight the disease and the crisis is now completely outstripping their ability to stem its spread.
Some specific features in the three countries have made Ebola particularly difficult to control. Lack of medical personnel and beds in Ebola Treatment Units, the complexity of identifying active cases and contacts, and the slowness of the response have all contributed to the seriousness of this health crisis. Doctors were unfamiliar with the disease, and because its symptoms resemble those of other ailments, early diagnosis and effective prevention were slow to begin.
Common practices, including communal hand washing, the tradition of caring for sick relatives, and the washing and dressing of dead bodies in preparation for burials, also contributed to the spread of the virus. Overly centralized health systems impaired the engagement of local communities, which is so critical to fighting epidemics such as this one.
A lack of trust in government further impeded cooperation, leading people to question the very existence of the virus.
The international community is now mobilized to help the affected countries stop the epidemic, treat the sick and prevent further outbreaks. There has been a noticeable change in perceptions and behaviors, and many communities have assumed the responsibility to cope with it, contributing to a significant decrease in new cases in some areas. Large sums, equipment and personnel have been rushed to these epicenter countries by the international community.
Yet, the battle is far from over and more resources will be required to bring it to an end. Communities have to own the struggle at the local level. Governments must lead effective, well-coordinated programmes to stop the epidemic all the way down to the district level, with support from the international community, including bilateral partners, multilateral agencies led by the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER), and other stakeholders.
Fear has compounded this crisis. Women are giving birth without modern medical attendants because they fear going to clinics; use of birth control has plummeted; HIV testing has practically stopped, and routine checkups and immunizations have ground to a halt. An increase in avoidable deaths and a resurgence in numerous different types of ailments may follow. Fear also is eroding social ties, as family and communal celebrations are postponed, and even cured Ebola patients are shunned by their families and communities.
Fear is also exacerbating the impact of the epidemic, leading to the closure of schools and businesses and slowing down planting and harvesting. The closure of borders and efforts by shipping companies to limit exposure to the disease are reducing external trade. Some workers are dying, others are fleeing infected areas, and quarantines and travel restrictions are preventing people from going to work. Official estimates, which are roughly consistent with simulations based on econometric modelling, indicate that the epidemic may be reducing growth in the three countries by between 3 to 6 percent this year. Moreover, uncertainty over the epidemic’s duration and economic impact has brought investment to a halt, reducing the prospects for growth in future years even if the virus is rapidly contained.
Finally, in the midst of the crisis, we must not lose sight of these countries’ desperate need to re-set development, but on a more sustainable path. Evidence from this study shows that an increase in quality spending in health and development projects is a critical path to recovery. Governments and donors are understandably eager to devote as many resources as possible to containing the epidemic. But attention must still be given to how these economies can best recover and again achieve improvements in human welfare once the disease has been contained. UNDP, in collaboration with UNMEER, is working with national and
international partners to contain the disease and help the affected countries recover.
Strengthening health systems, and addressing the structural vulnerabilities that allowed Ebola to take hold in the first place will help to ensure such a crisis may never happen again. (UNDP, Regional Director, 2014).
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
West African countries are often characterised as less developed countries, this is due to the high rate of poverty, high dependency rate, low per-capita income and high level of corruption among other factors. Inadequacy of medical facilities and safety gargets has been a major challenge for African countries in the fight of the Ebola virus, also availability of skilled doctors to threat Ebola patients has also posed a great problem for West African countries, due to this, and the death toll is on high. Most West African countries are left with no choice but to rely heavy on the aid of the so called external actors for assistance in the fight against Ebola, but the responses given to west African countries might be said to be a bit slower and not as effective as expected, reason being that Africa is seen as another world on its own, and often then to leave Africa at their faith when crisis such as these happen. WHO, which should have led the international response, has experienced severe budget deficits and drastically cut its workforce and programs, including its capacity for rapid response to the Ebola crisis. More than 5 months after the virus began its spread, greater emphasis was finally placed on the development of vaccines and drug therapies, On August 11th, WHO approved the compassionate use of experimental drugs, the drug was initially administered to two US aid workers, and reportedly to a Spanish priest. It was later given to a British nurse as well, but these drugs didn’t get into West Africa until around late October 2014 reportedly on a ―first come, first served‖ basis, but the initial preference given to white foreign workers fueled a sense of deep injustice. While administering an unproven drug to African patients conjures up images of unconscionable human experimentation, the failure to meaningfully consult local communities and leaders is a moral failure.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The broad objective of this study is to examine the response of the international response to the Ebola crisis in West Africa and also:
i to examine the nature of the Ebola crisis in West Africa ii to identify and discuss the role and challenges of the external actors towards the
Ebola crisis in West Africa
iii to identify the effectiveness of the international response towards the Ebola crisis in West Africa
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
i What is Ebola crisis?
ii What are the roles and challenges of the external actors towards the Ebola crisis in West Africa?
iii To what extent have the roles of external actors towards the Ebola Crisis been
effective in West Africa?
1.5 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
Bearing in mind the current situation of the spread of Ebola disease in the world, the high rate of death and dented diplomatic relations among states West Africa in particular, there is the need to examine the response of the international actors on the Ebola crisis in West Africa. This research also serves as a wakeup call to reduce the reliance on external actors for help in times of crisis, other solutions such as locally made medicine and improvement in our health facilities should also be considered.
1.6 SCOPE AND LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY
The temporal scope of this study encompasses the international response to the outbreak of the ebola crisis in West Africa from 2014 till date. The spatial scope includes the affected countries in West Africa, although much emphasis is placed on Nigeria where the ebola virus disease broke out last year (2014)
The main limitation of this study is the inability to gain access to individuals who have been directly affected or fallen victim of the ebola virus disease. This is because of the contagious factor of the disease which is terribly risky.
1.7 ORGANIZATION OF THE STUDY
This research work is structured into five chapters. Chapter one includes introduction to the study, statement of the problem, objectives of study research questions, significance of study, scope and limitation of study, organization of study and definition of terms. Chapter two focused on the conceptual clarification and theoretical frame work. Chapter three examined research methodology. Chapter four is devoted to data analysis, and includes the analysis of secondary data while Chapter five covers the findings, conclusion and recommendation.
1.8 DEFINITION OF TERMS CRISIS
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary crisis is defined as an unstable or crucial time or state of affairs in which a decisive change is impending. Based on this research more attention is going to be paid on health crisis. Health Crisis is a difficult situation or complex health system that affects humans in one or more geographic areas, from a particular locality to encompass the entire planet.
A notoriously deadly virus that causes fearsome symptoms, the most prominent being high fever and massive internal bleeding. Ebola virus kills as many as 90% of the people it infects. It is one of the viruses that are capable of causing hemorrhagic (bloody) fever.
Ebola virus is transmitted by contact with blood, faeces, or body fluids from an infected person or by direct contact with the virus, as in a laboratory. People can be exposed to Ebola virus from direct contact with the blood or secretions of an infected person. This is why the virus has often been spread through the families and friends of infected persons: in the course of feeding, holding, or otherwise caring for them, family members and friends would come into close contact with such secretions. People can also be exposed to Ebola virus through contact with objects, such as needles, that have been contaminated with infected secretions.
The incubation period –the period between contact with the virus and the appearance of symptoms — ranges from 2 to 21 days.
United Nations (UN), world health organization (WHO), U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), NGOs, ministries of health and multilateral organizations and Ebola treatment units (ETU).
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