Written by Pablo Alegria – Corriente Roja
Monday, 20 October 2014 22:48
Not by chance the Ebola virus has killed thousands of people in West Africa. Its uncontrolled spread is directly linked to the lack of any means in the affected countries after centuries of plundering, the lack of vaccines and international indifference to a drama that had been incubated for months.
With more than 4,000 people infected and 2,200 deaths reported officially at press time, the first documented case of the current outbreak reports to late 2013, with the evidence of epidemic since March. However, until August and only after the publicized infection of a handful of Westerners, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a state of international emergency. Paradoxically, it took less time for the international organizations to order (September 2012), approve (December) and run (January 2013) the military mission in neighboring Mali, led by France to help the friendly regime.
Far from being a turning point, the measures implemented have only aggravated the situation. The cancellation of international flights or the request of embassies to their citizens to evacuate the region have worsened an already dire economic crisis. The “land of Ebola,” as cheerfully have been renamed Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia by the media, has been primarily sealed. Symbolic, for its racist and criminalization component, have been the images of masked Civil Guards driving away immigrants from the fences of Ceuta and Melilla.
Behind the panic sown there is a virus whose human-to-human transmission can occur only via direct contact with blood or body fluid from an infected person, for which “basic infectious control measures” by Western standards would be sufficient to stem the tide of the current Ebola epidemic, according to a report by Adam C. Levine, professor of Emergency Medicine at Brown Medical School, USA.
Meanwhile, international aid is limited to the action of completely overwhelmed NGOs. The plan recently announced by WHO is little more than a “show to the gallery”: late and full of unknowns awaiting the US$ 450 million needed, if they ever will come to collect. For its part, the IMF has already provided its contribution in the form of loans to countries affected by about 300 million euros!
Neither vaccines nor medicine
Waiting to grab these funds and new business opportunities are the Big Pharma, experienced in making fortune from global fear after the 2009 Avian influenza. These powerful multinationals (the seven largest are worth more than 1 billion euros in market value) monopolize the technology for research into vaccines and drugs, that are subordinated to the obtainment of economic benefits.
That is what explains why, despite being known since 1976, any drug has been developed to control a virus that so far had only contaminated rural areas of Africa. However, GlaxoSmithKline in close conection with the American Department of Health and Johnson & Johnson, among others, are now in a race against time to market a vaccine in 2015. With the blessing of the WHO, which act as a mediator between pharmaceutical companies and affected countries they may even skip lengthy and costly security protocols for testing it on humans.
A broken healthcare system
The crisis has highlighted the bad state of public services in the region after centuries of looting, currently in the form of corrupt regimes supported by the West. Given the lack of sanitary facilities, the governments have deployed the military to enforce quarantines in entire neighborhoods, to seal isolation centers totally devoid of food or medicine and suppress any revolt of a desperate population who face an overlapping food crisis and see with indignation as many senior administration officials have fled the country.
In an area that houses many mineral resources, we reach the point that in Liberia and Sierra Leone there are less than 2 doctors per 100,000 people, who work in hospitals without even basic equipment as gloves or disinfectants. With such a breeding ground, the spread of Ebola was to be expected. In the West it could never have reached a similar magnitude.
The transfer of priest Pajares
The media event of the Spanish priest Miguel Pajares, moved from Liberia to a Madrid hospital for treatment of the virus, symbolizes the outrageous response of Western governments against Ebola. The operation was carried out only to evacuate the priest and other Spanish religious, abandoning to their fate the religious fellows of African origin, many of them also infected. Although his life could not be saved, Pajares was one of the few patients with access to experimental serum ZMapp developed in USA.
Various estimates put the cost of moving him up to 500,000 euros, which will be covered by public funds despite the enormous wealth owned by the Order of St. John of God to which Pajares belonged. The Order owns the largest private hospital group in the Spanish state, with 45 centers and 7,000 beds, and has been a great beneficiary of the privatization of health services in Madrid, as denounced by the Federation of Associations for the Defence of Public Health. Among other assets, it owns a purchases management company which is worth over 25 million euros in 2011 and has been linked to a SICAV that declared a capital of 17 million euros in the same year.
The question is more poignant, if possible, when compared to the amount allocated by the Spanish State (extrapolable to the entire West) in the fight against Ebola. The contribution, according to the UN itself, fails to 350,000 euros to date, of which two-thirds were intended precisely to provision the hospital managed by the Order in Liberia. In this context comes out the special status available to missionaries of the Church, who are not required by law to underwrite insurance policies during their missions as it is in force for those cooperating with other NGOs.