Sep
13

THE TELEPHONE RANG AAAAAAAAA, BUT THERE WAS NO ANSWER!

The Telephone Rang Aaaaaaaaaaaa! But There Was No Answer!

By CAMERON DUODU

September 13, 2014
Cameron Doudu

I have the greatest sympathy for the Sole Commissioner for Judgement Debts. at one of his sittings, he was informed that when his office tried to phone the Ministry of Finance to tell its officials that the Commissioner had directed that the Ministry should only send people to appear before the Commissioner who knew something about the transactions the Commissioner was currently investigating, “the phone rang and rang, but there was no answer!”

You see, in Ghana, some of the officials of Ministries and Departments do not believe that they were set up to provide services to tax-payers. Rather, they believe their institutions were set up to enable their officials to “bluff “and annoy tax-payers and show them where power lies!.

If a tax-payer approaches them, their mental attitude is this: “Who is this fool who has had the temerity to present to me, a problem he/she is facing, when I have so many serious problems of my own that I cannot cope with?”

You might have thought that in a Ministry or Department, such things can easily occur because the efficiency of the outfit is not quantifiable and cannot be monitored.

In other words, they are not accountable, except to the government.

Which means that if the government does not care about exacting accountability, then all is lost. Yes, unfortunately that is the truth.

But I am going to shock you by revealing that it happens also in the private sector!

What? Aren’t profits — or the lack of them — an unfailing indicator of the efficiency or otherwise of a private concern?

Well, that is theoretically correct. But culture is an assimilable commodity, and if the largest employer in the country, the government, does not exact accountability from its employees, the culture of impudence that it condones can infect every other enterprise in the country. So, the private sector can also be as insensitive to customers’ needs as the inefficient public institutions. Here is a situation I’d like you to look at: a public enquiry is being held and…..

(WITNESS Y IS CALLED AND SWORN)

COURT CLERK: Please tell the court what you know regarding a transaction you wanted to execute with a privately owned

bank.

– WITNESS: My Lord, I reside abroad. I was recently informed that a favourite uncle had passed away and that my family needed help with the funeral obsequies. Now, it happened that I had some Cedis in my account at a bank in Ghana and since Cedis have become so feather-weight in value that they seem to be flying towards the stratosphere……(LOUD LAUGHTER IN COURT) WITNESS…. Well, I decided to utilize the ‘Internet Banking’ system that my bank says it has set up. But I found that whenever I clicked on ‘Log In’, I was taken to a page where a beautiful lady was inviting me to use the bank’s Internet Banking System! (LOUD LAUGHTER IN COURT)

• WITNESS: After I had clicked and clicked in vain, I thought I would telephone the bank. So I rang the number I had for it. But the phone rang and rang and rang and rang and rang and rang and rang aaaaaaaaaaaa, without a reply!

• (LAUGHTER)

• I was using my land-line, and something asked me to try a mobile phone. And miraculously, I got through!

Someone answered but she kept saying “Hello! Hello!” When I too said “Hello, can you hear me?”, she didn’t seem to hear me! I wasn’t even sure I had got through to the bank, for shouldn’t a bank’s receptionist first of all identify the bank, instead of just saying “Hello”?

(LOUD LAUGHTER IN COURT)

– WITNESS: After shouting myself hoarse, I was ready to give up. But the fact that I was going to pay for calls that had not produced any results for me was so repugnant that I decided to use a third telephone (another mobile) to try. But alas, the third phone, although equipped with a different SIM card, also produced a result similar to that of the land-line: it just rang and rang and rang……aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

• (LAUGHTER IN COURT)

• JUDGE: Three telephones to call one number, and none of them worked?

If the private sector is also not providing the services its customers need, then did we go or did we come? Thank you!

• But my Lord, I have not finished!

(LAUGHTER IN COURT)

• JUDGE: What more have you got to say?

• My Lord, I once visited home in 2013, and I discovered after a short stay that my laptop had crashed. People said it was DUMSƆ that had busted it. Well, I needed to find another laptop quickly and fortunately, I located a new one. So I took my debit card to a branch of the bank that had issued it. But after waiting a long time at a crowded foreign exchange counter, the cashier that I got to told me to go and use their ATM! Why?

Well, the ATM gave me less money than I had asked for! I was so stung that I made an angry call to my overseas bank only for it to confirm that I did have more than enough funds to cover the withdrawal. It was then that a senior chap at the bank pointed out to me that after the ATM had given me what it wanted to give to me, it had offered me the choice of making an ADDITIONAL withdrawal. So I used that to get the rest of the money I needed. But do you know something? On my return to my station, my bank statement showed that I had been charged for TWO SEPARATE ATM TRANSACTIONS, instead of one!

• (LAUGHTER)

• JUDGE: So it’s not only the public sector that takes us for mugs in Ghana?

• WITNESS: The evidence is before your Lordship, Sir! On another occasion, Sir, a local bank with a very big overseas affiliate refused to change travellers’ cheques from the affiliate for me, on the grounds that the machine that could check the genuineness of the travellers’ cheques was “not working”! But the bank  was lying! It didn’t want to do the transaction because it could not have charged for the travellers’ cheques, since they bore the bank’s own name  and banks don’t normally charge for travellers’ cheques they have themselves issued. It’s something like someone being charged for using Cedis in Ghana!

(PROLONGED LAUGHTER) –

WITNESS: My Lord, if we have no regulators who are competent enough and willing to regulate businesses, then, private businesses – whether telephone companies or banks – will also take us for a ride.

- JUDGe: You are quite right. I shall include your observations in my report.

But, of course, it won’t be up to me to enforce them.

(A COLLECTIVE SIGH IS HEARD IN THE HALL)

Sep
09

EBOLA: OBAMA ACTS — AT LAST

EBOLA: OBAMA ACTS – AT LAST by CAMERON DUODU
IT was with a great sense of relief that I read that President Barack Obama had said, on the NBC’s Meet The Press (one of the most prestigious news programmes in America) that the US would be using its “military assets” to help fight the horrendous Ebola disease that has broken out in some West African countries.
The President said the Ebola outbreak represents “a serious national security concern” to the United States. If the United States and other countries did not send needed equipment, public health workers and other supplies to the afflicted region, the situation could change and the virus could mutate to become more transmissible, President Obama explained.
If such a mutation occurred and the disease began to spread more widely, “it could be a serious danger to the United States.
We’re going to have to get U.S. military assets just to set up, for example, isolation units and equipment there,” he said, “to provide security for public health workers surging from around the world,” President Obama added.
In other words, the President has recognised that it is in the enlightened self-interest of the United States and the other developed countries to place their expertise at the disposal of the West African populations threatened by Ebola. The wonder is that this obvious situation did not become clear to the US and the other countries much earlier.
For they knew the nature of Ebola. The US sent a specially-equipped aircraft to ferry two American health workers who had been infected with the disease to the US for treatment. Britain too sent an RAF plane to bring a single British nurse for treatment in the UK. The world watched and wondered: if they know how to treat the disease, why aren’t they bringing that knowledge to Africa, people asked.
It was the international president of Medecins Sans Frontieres, Dr Joanne Liu, who boldly told the United Nations, on 2 September 2014, that unless UN members who had the military units that can combat biological weapons into Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea to help the victims of Ebola there, he disease would overwhelm the world.
Many of the [UN] Member States represented here today have invested heavily in biological threat response. You have a political and humanitarian responsibility to immediately utilize these capabilities in Ebola-affected countries”, Dr Liu said.
Dr Liu was absolutely right. All the countries that possess nuclear weapons in the world – the US, Russia, China, the UK, France, India and Pakistan – have invested heavily in military medical units that can try to save their populations in case a nuclear attack is launched against them, or there is an accident at a nuclear facility operated by them at home. Japan should, in fact, be added to the list, as should Germany, for although these two countries do not possess nuclear weapons, they do use nuclear power to generate electricity. The threat they face in common with the countries that possess nuclear weapons is that whenever there is a nuclear explosion – whether from bombs or nuclear power stations – radiation is released to cause untold harm to people with whom it comes into contact.
Now, the way to prevent radiation disease is to make sure that no unprotected person goes near the area where radiation is leaking from. Anyone who is detected by a Geiger counter to be affected by radiation must be isolated immediately, because people who go near those affected by radiation, become affected themselves. The diseases caused by radiation are extremely serious, for they do not merely affect a person’s body but also his or her genes.
If special facilities  for combating radiation exist – made up of diagnostic, isolation and treatment centres – within the armed forces and health services of the countries that use nuclear power as weapons or a source of electricity, then it means that they are ready to anticipate and check a disease that are far worse than Ebola. For you cannot contract Ebola unless you actually touch the body or get contaminated by fluids from the body, of a person who has got Ebola or died from it.
. In her special briefing to the UN, Dr. Joanne Liu pointed out that “six months into the worst Ebola epidemic in history, the world is losing the battle to contain it.” Leaders were “failing to come to grips with this transnational threat.”, she added. Cases and deaths continued to surge in West Africa. Riots were breaking out. Isolation centres were overwhelmed.
Dr Liu went on: “Health workers on the front lines are becoming infected and are dying in shocking numbers. Others have fled in fear, leaving people without care for even the most common illnesses. Entire health systems have crumbled.
Ebola treatment centres are reduced to places where people go to die alone, where little more than palliative care is offered.”
It is good that the President of the United States has heeded the call for military unites to be sent to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. But the countries that have either not been strongly affected, or not been affected at all, must also be helped to prepare themselves to anticipate the possibility of becoming affected. The cost of flying a special plane to pick up American and British Ebola patients must have been enormous. The money would have been better spent sending facilities to West Africa, from which West African patients too could have benefited. It is a sad reflection on the concern the US and Britain have for the people of West Africa that it did not occur to the two countries to use the opportunity offered by the infection of their citizens with Ebola in West Africa, to do some imaginative work on behalf of humanity.
For let us not beat about the bush – both the US and the UK, for instance, profess to care strongly about the interests of the people of West Africa. They have sent technical teams to Nigeria to assist that country with its struggle against Boko Haram. That will have cost them a pretty penny. In the case of the USA, it has actually set up an African Command within its armed for ces (known as ”AFRICOM”) dedicated to assisting African armies to become more efficient, especially in fighting terrorist organisations like Al Shabbab and Boko Haram, as well as Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
Can you guess what the budget for AFRICOM is for 2014? It should be a cool $300 million or more, if we go by the fact that its headquarters operating budget was $274 million in Fiscal Year 2010, $286 million in Fiscal Year 2011, and $276 million in Fiscal Year 2012. If the people of Africa deserve “military protection” from the USA to the tune of such huge amounts, what about using similar sums to protect them from Ebola? Does it matter whether they die from Ebola or from attacks by terrorists of the Al Shabbab and Boko Haram variety? They would be dead all the same, wouldn’t they?
I urge President Obama not to waste another minute but get the authorisation of Congress – if he needs to – as quickly as possible to set the Ebola Rescue Mission into orbit. Africa will thank the United States for it. ​

Sep
06

MSF DESERVES PRAISE FOR ITS STANCE OVER EBOLA

Daily Guide (Ghana)  6 September 2014

 

 September 6, 2014

Cameron Doudu

Whoever first said that you discover the full measure of a person or organisation when a crisis occurs, was absolutely spot on.  In the current Ebola crisis facing the world, an organisation called Médecins sans frontières (Msf in short or Doctors Without Borders) has taken over the leadership role in the battle against Ebola that should properly belong to the World Health Organisation (WHO). It is Who that is formally charged with the responsibility of helping the world to combat such pandemics.

But many observers  think that whether it is because the WHO is hampered by bureaucratic or associated political reasons, it has not quite risen to the enormous task facing it over Ebola – so far. MSN has. It deserves our praise. But WHO should not resent the leading role MSF is playing.

WHO should rather thank MSN, for daring to tell the story like it is – something  that WHO may not be placed to do at all times.

MSN has now officially asked the United Nations to appeal to its members to send military units into Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea to help the victims of Ebola there. In a special briefing to the UN on 2 September 2014, the international president of MSN, Dr Joanne Liu, said that six months into the worst Ebola epidemic in history, “the world is losing the battle to contain it.” Leaders were “failing to come to grips with this transnational threat.”

Dr Liu went on:

QUOTE: In West Africa, cases and deaths continue to surge. Riots are breaking out. Isolation centres are overwhelmed.

Health workers on the front lines are becoming infected and are dying in shocking numbers. Others have fled in fear, leaving people without care for even the most common illnesses. Entire health systems have crumbled.

Ebola treatment centres are reduced to places where people go to die alone, where little more than palliative care is offered. It is impossible to keep up with the sheer number of infected people pouring into facilities. In Sierra Leone, infectious bodies are rotting in the streets. Rather than building new Ebola care centres in Liberia, we are forced to build crematoria….

We are in uncharted waters. Transmission rates are at unprecedented levels, and the virus is spreading quickly through Liberia’s capital, Monrovia. I stand here today, as the president of a medical humanitarian organisation on the front lines of this outbreak since it emerged. My colleagues have cared for more than two thirds of the officially declared infected patients. Even as we have doubled our staff over the last month, I can tell you that they are completely overwhelmed.

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has been ringing alarm bells for months, but the response has been too little, too late. The outbreak began six months ago, but was only declared a ‘Public Health Emergency of International Concern’ [by the responsible body, the W.H.O.] on August 8.

While funding announcements, roadmaps, and finding vaccines and treatments are welcome, they will not stop the epidemic today. We have been losing for the past six months. We must win over the next three. And we can.

Many of the member states represented here today have invested heavily in biological threat response. You have a political and humanitarian responsibility to immediately utilise these capabilities in Ebola-affected countries.

To curb the epidemic, it is imperative that states immediately deploy civilian and military assets with expertise in biohazard containment. I call upon you to dispatch your disaster response teams, backed by the full weight of your logistical capabilities. This should be done in close collaboration with the affected countries.

Without this deployment, we will never get the epidemic under control.

The following must be prioritised: Scaling up isolation centres; deploying mobile laboratories to improve diagnostic capabilities; establishing dedicated air bridges to move personnel and equipment to and within West Africa; building a regional network of field hospitals to treat suspected or infected medical personnel.

While these bio-defense teams will help to immediately shore up the response on the ground, the WHO and other public health agencies must operationalise the Ebola Road Map. We must also address the collapse of state infrastructure. The health system in Liberia has collapsed.

Pregnant women experiencing complications have nowhere to turn. Malaria and diarrhoea, easily preventable and treatable diseases are killing people. Hospitals need to be reopened, and newly created.

Lastly, we must change the collective mindset driving the response to the epidemic.

Coercive measures, such as laws criminalising the failure to report suspected cases, and forced quarantines, are driving people underground. This is leading to the concealment of cases, and is pushing the sick away from health systems. These measures have only served to breed fear and unrest, rather than contain the virus.

UN member states cannot focus solely on measures to protect their own borders. Only by battling the epidemic at its roots can we stem it.

This is a transnational crisis, with social, economic and security implications for the African continent. It is your historic responsibility to act.

We cannot cut off the affected countries and hope this epidemic will simply burn out.

To put out this fire, we must run into the burning building. UNQUOTE

 

Dr Liu’s statement is so eloquent that there is nothing to add to it, except to confirm that, yes, during the Cold War, and in recent days when Saddam Hussein and other international pariahs have made manifest, their ability to use biological and chemical weapons, many countries, particularly the USA, Britain,. France, Germany, Russia, China and others have established in their military, well-trained units that can combat both chemical and biological attacks efficiently, as well as radiation from nuclear weapons. It is precisely these units that must be flown into the burning fire – the epicentres of the disease in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

To pay for these well-trained units to sit in their military camps doing nothing, when their services are so much in need, is nothing less than a crime against humanity.

By Cameron Duodu

Sep
01

THE AFRICAN UNION MUST TAKE THE EBOLA ISSUE TO THE UN SECURITY COUNCIL

THE AFRICAN UNION MUST TAKE THE EBOLA CASE TO THE U.N. SECURITY COUNCIL

By CAMERON DUODU

EBOLA is truly terrifying. The reason is that even killer malaria does NOT slay the doctors and nurses who try to cure it. But Ebola does. ?
Only intensified scientific research can find a cure for Ebola. But unfortunately, there are two types of scientist in the world: those who are so concerned about the pain and death caused to humans by illness that they will even sacrifice their own lives to try and cure deadly diseases, and those who will use their scientific skill to kill humans on the orders of a government made up of people endowed with the same universal human rights as those they want to kill.
I wonder ho many Ghanaians who walk past the Noguchi Institute in Ghana know about the scientist after whom the institute is named? He was Dr Hideyo Noguchi, who helped to find a way of inoculating humans against yellow fever. He died whilst carrying out research in Accra and Lagos in 1927-28.
But there are other types of scientists who, for money, prestige or “patriotic” reasons, will use human beings to carry out research to hurt or kill humans. Notable among these is Dr Wouter Basson, a.k.a. “Dr Death”, who developed bio-chemical weapons for the apartheid regime of South Africa, some of which were meant to kill only Africans. Scientists with a similarly racist mentality also surfaced in the United States, where in 1972, it was revealed that a group at the Tuskegee Institute had, for decades, been using poor African-American share-croppers in to test drugs against the terrible disease of syphilis.
Anyone aware of what some scientists can do will be remiss in not asking: since it is reported that some in the scientific community are suggesting that the current Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia may have originated from “a toddler” who ate an infected bat and got infected with the Ebola virus, why had bats waited until 2014 to transmit the disease to humans, when Africans had mercilessly been putting bats – and other game animals — on their menu, for ever?
Another question is this: since scientists from Tulane University, in New Orleans, USA, had been carrying out research for about 10 years in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, into haemorrhagic fevers, including Lassa and Ebola, why has no-one officially associated the research they were carrying out with the Ebola outbreak?
The only [indirect] indication that something may have gone amiss with research in the three countries comes from this Reuter report about the US Government stopping its funding of the research. (Reuters is one of the most reputable and accurate news-gathering organisation in the world), Here is the Reuters report:
QUOTE: Exclusive: U.S. cuts resources for project involved in Ebola battle in Sierra Leone
BY TONI CLARKE
Washington Thu Aug 7, 2014 4:04pm EDT
(Reuters) – The U.S. government will not renew funding for a major research project into Lassa fever, a decision that will, in turn, cut resources for a facility in Sierra Leone that is at the forefront of the current battle against the Ebola virus.
The National Institutes of Health rejected a proposal from New Orleans-based Tulane University to renew the five-year contract, which expires in November, according to a July 30 letter from NIH reviewed by Reuters. The expiring contract is worth $15 million.
NIH declined to comment on the decision, citing “federal governmentprocurement integrity rules.” [emphasis added].
The facility, at Kenema Government Hospital, was set up a decade ago to test and treat Lassa fever. Now it is being used to treat patients stricken with Ebola. [emphasis added] Both are haemorrhagic fevers caused by distinct families of viruses. Ebola is the most lethal, leading to death in up to 90 percent of cases. [Reuters adds that the project “also spends $100,000 a year on a laboratory in Irrua, southern Nigeria. The lab diagnosed the first case of Ebola in that country. It is not currently treating any patients”.]
Last week, the [Kenema] facility’s director and chief physician, Dr. Sheik Umar Khan, died after becoming infected with Ebola. Its head nurse and two other nurses have also died, and some other staff are sick. The Ebola outbreak, the worst ever recorded, has killed 932 people across Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.
As part of the Tulane research project, which was designed to identify diagnostics and treatment for Lassa, researchers support the Kenema facility, which has a 5,500 square foot laboratory and similarly-sized hospital ward. Blood samples from infected patients are used to develop tests and diagnostics.[emphasis added]
Funds from the Tulane project support most of the facility’s operations, including $100,000 a year to supplement meagre government salaries received by some 30 staff – including doctors, nurses, lab technicians and field workers – said Robert Garry, a professor of microbiology and immunology at Tulane, who heads the program. The program also supplies laboratory equipment, including protective garments, pipettes, and all materials needed to analyse blood samples.
It is unclear whether the facility will be able to raise funds from other sources to replace the Tulane project money.
In the letter to Tulane, a contracting officer for the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Liem Nguyen, said the proposal had been rejected “based on technical factors, scientific priority, [emphasis added] and availability of funds.”
The proposal, the letter added, “falls short of those considered by NIAID to offer the best opportunities for the most successful accomplishment of the acquisition objectives.”
NIH declined to provide further comment on the matter.
The Sierra Leone facility’s resources are strained, members of Tulane’s team say. Dr Daniel Bausch, an associate professor in Tulane’s tropical medicine department, who was at the facility for three weeks in July, said last week that constant fatigue among overworked and poorly trained workers may have led to mistakes. He saw some staff not wearing protective suits. The number of patients in the ward has topped 50, far outstripping its capacity. UNQUOTE
Now, I am constrained to ask: is it unreasonable to suspect that the US Government now wants, for reasons best known to itself, to dissociate itself from the research? Does it know something it is not prepared to share with the rest of the world? I ask these questions because it seems to be extremely callous of the US Government to be cutting off funds from a research project it has hitherto been happily funding, at a crucial time when the facility’s efforts are most in demand! If research into diseases like Ebola is not a scientific priority now (as the NIH claims) then when will it be? Even if it was really done for budgetary reasons alone, does the US Government not realise that the timing of the announcement on funding can give rise to the worst forms of speculation, to say the least?
There are so many questions to answer that a group of doctors from French-speaking Africa have asked the African Union to urge the United Nations Security Council to set up an international investigatory commission – comprising both African scientists and non-Africans, to investigate the origins not only of Ebola, but also of HIV/Aids. A prominent Ghanaian doctor, who has been promoting the idea of a Think Tank for the Ghana medical profession, has circulated the proposal by the French-speaking doctors to Ghanaian doctors, presumably with a view to getting them to support the proposal for a UN enquiry.
Another question is this: given all the circumstances surrounding this Ebola outbreak and the panic it is causing, had the same circumstances been found to relate to a research project operating in Bethesda, Maryland, USA, or Birmingham (England) or Toulouse, in France, would the authorities not investigate the operational methods being used at the facility? Would the scientists there be allowed to go unchallenged as they uttered inanities about the consumption of trout or pheasants? Why do people like the WHO and even the Red Cross appear to operate with different criteria when it comes to the outbreak of diseases in Africa?
Well, we do have an African Union and we do have scientists operating in the West who are of African descent. Some of the latter are so incensed by what they believe is “racist science” in the West that they have called on the AU to ask the UN Security Council to order an investigation into the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa. They also want an investigation into the outbreak of HIV/Aids in Africa.
it won’t surprise anyone if the AU does nothing. It would just go to show that the organisation is bent onremaining to be an irrelevant entity of the sort that Ghanaian call Simpa Panin or Opanintoto.(an ”elder” or a senior official who sleeps on the job).
ends

 

Aug
30

WHAT’S TO BE DONE ABOUT THE EBOLA EMERGENCY?

What Is To Be Done About The Ebola Emergency In West Africa?

Daily Guide August 30, 2014

Cameron Doudu

PANIC has set in to undermine the efforts being made by the governments of Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria, to combat the terrible Ebola outbreak in their countries.

The government of Liberia, for instance, went overboard to quarantine the district of West Point, in Monrovia city. (This has now been lifted.)  No-one needs to point out that imposing quarantine in an urban setting is both dangerous and ineffective. No wonder there were instances of  rioting reported in Monrovia.

camp2

The quarantine imposed on parts of the Liberian countryside is no better. It will prevent medical assistance and, in some cases, food supplies, being taken  to the quarantined areas. Conversely, urban areas which depend on the rural areas for food will also be  seriously affected. In counties already suffering from inflation, that is a blow the citizens could well do without. But even worse, the quarantine will force people to congregate together in larger numbers whenever food or other supplies arrive to be shared. And it will present a chaotic situation to government or NGO health personnel who try to tend sick people or seek to implement measuresmto  prevent  the spreading of Ebola.

President Johnson Sirleaf, one of the most enlightened leaders in Africa, says she is suspending the constitutional rights of Liberian citizens for 90 days, to combat the pandemic. Obviously, she is doing this because she believes that force must at times be needed to implement some of the measures her government is using to combat the Ebola outbreak.

But even though her suspension of some of Liberians’ constitutional rights is made in good faith, it is not a wise decision. For it will only increase fear in the country. People will go away with the perception that the government is acting that way because things are too desperate to be brought under control. And such a feeling will only go to increase the panic felt by the populace.

More worrying is the fact that on the ground, very little appears to have been done to reassure the people that that the inadequate health facilities in Liberia are being urgently revamped to cope with the new emergency. Liberians, with some justification, will come to believe that the situation will get worse before it gets better. How absolutely depressing that must be for them.

In Sierra Leone, too, fear has gripped the population. The government has announced that anyone who helps to conceal those suspected of having contracted Ebola, will face two years imprisonment. Yet, as in Liberia, health facilities are patchy. Even Medecins Sans Frontieres, one of the bravest humanitarian organisations in the world (its forte is to send doctors into areas of danger where normal medical personnel don’t dare to operate) is said to be withdrawing many of its staff from Sierra Leone. And the World Health Organisation (WHO) is in no better position, either.

In fact, whilst the West African governments are sinking under the weight of their own helplessness, the outside world does not appear to be doing much to help them.

 

 Air France has been told by the French government not to fly to Sierra Leone any more. Some other airlines have similarly decided to avoid both Sierra Leone and Liberia. This will only worsen the situation for the two countries. It means that medical personnel and medical supplies, in the rare case of being made available, cannot be flown speedily on the aircraft of the Airlines concerned to go and assist in the ‘quarantined’ countries.

France should answer this question: it is a member of the WHO, and the WHO has said clearly that it is not necessary to stop flights to countries affected by Ebola, so long as strict vigilance is exercised at airports to spot persons who have possibly been stricken by Ebola. So why is France ordering Air France not to go to Sierra Leone, while apparently allowing the same Airline to go to Guinea?

The role of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in all this has also been confusing. The organisation has declared the Ebola outbreak as a ‘health emergency’. But it has not put into place any radical plan to URGENTLY mobilise world-wide medical assistance for the countries being crippled by the disease. The WHO should, by now, have asked countries capable of providing assistance, to fly personnel and supplies in huge quantities to the stricken countries.

It is no secret that the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China have all got units of medical personnel who are experts in fighting against nuclear and chemical-warfare attacks. The armed forces of all these countries incorporate trained units that are on standby to be flown into danger areas, if and when their territories are attacked with nuclear or chemical weapons. These well-equipped, highly-trained personnel can be given emergency instruction on how to change their techniques to combat Ebola. They can then be flown to the epicentres of the disease and practise the same safe methods of providing medical care to disease victims, which they would carry out if a nuclear or chemical attack occurred. In fact, the Ebola attack could provide them with useful practical experience in fighting dangerous illnesses.

Why are the advanced countries not doing it? Ask me another.

What makes the inaction of these countries – especially the United States – more puzzling is that the USA was actually carrying out a research programme into haemorrhagic fevers, such as Lassa and Ebola (under a contract awarded to Tulane University and other groups of scientists worth about $300m) in the three countries that constitute the Mano River basin (Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea) before the outbreak began. Whatever the three countries have, or have not, contributed to American medical research, the fact that they were willing to allow the Americans to carry out medical research in their territory, places a MORAL DUTY on the United States in particular to lend them a hand to fight a terrible scourge like Ebola.

I am certain that if it was tasked to do so, the United States Army could fly fully-equipped, ready-made personnel isolation structures to the three countries. And, of course, it could take the health carers there, the latex gloves and sealed uniforms, without which no-one can safely go near an Ebola patient.

By Cameron Duodu

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