WHO to Announce End of Ebola in Liberia, Thanks to Cuba

Source:  TeleSUR
June 9 2016The Ebola virus has devastated parts of West Africa.

The Ebola virus has devastated parts of West Africa. | Photo: Reuters
The Ebola virus is expected to be all but gone in Liberia, thanks in large part to the work of Cuban doctors in Africa.

The World Health Organization is expected to announce Thursday that the Ebola virus in Liberia has been adequately controlled according to the New Straits Times.

RELATED:  Cuban Doctors Arrive in South Africa to Revamp Healthcare

Liberia will have passed the WHO threshold of 42 days since the last known patient tested negative for the second time. The WHO declared an end to Ebola in neighboring Guinea just last week, but warned that the virus still remained a threat.

Cuban doctors were among some of the heroes who helped tackle the Ebola virus in West Africa.Cuba sent hundreds of doctors to the affected areas to provide care and training for locals.

WATCH: Sierra Leone: Cuban doctors reducing Ebola cases

In February 2015, a team of Cuban doctors who were helping to fight Ebola in West Africa were nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

The Ebola virus epidemic began in West Africa in December 2013 with Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone the worst hit countries with over 28,000 reported cases. The death toll of the virus was approximately 10,000 according to the WHO in December 2014.

RELATED: New Ebola Outbreak in Guinea Kills 7

The virus affected a number of African countries and sparked fears of a global catastrophe with governments threatening travel ban restrictions to the worst-affected countries. It left economies and health systems in West Africa in ruins.

Health professionals in Liberia said that the international response to Ebola in West Africa was well below what was needed.

It is mostly acknowledged that without the aid of Cuba and its doctors, very little would have been done to stop the outbreak.

Cuban doctors have been pivotal in providing care and training in disaster-affected areas around the world, most recently in Ecuador’s devastating earthquake.

One thought on “WHO to Announce End of Ebola in Liberia, Thanks to Cuba

  1. To hear the news that the WHO has recently declared Liberia Ebola free is on the surface of it an excellent reason to celebrate.

    After all potentially thousands of lives of Liberians will be saved. That is good news not only for the Liberian workforce and its economy but also for many other lives usually the poor and their families who were and are those most at risk to contract the Ebola virus.

    The WHO’s declaration is also a reason to once again celebrate the truly impressive work of all the medical teams from around the globe particularly the Cuban medical team who provided selfless services to save thousands of lives.

    By all accounts the Cuban medical team played an especially outstanding role in the battle against the Ebola virus both in Liberia and the rest of West Africa. The latter is not only another feat of the Cuban health system and by extension its revolution to have played perhaps the most important role in bringing the Ebola virus under control. Indeed, the WHO has lauded Cuba’s outstanding role in the battle to save lives and for bringing the virus under control in West Africa.

    Cuba’s critical role in fighting the deadly virus is so undeniable that even the US government has had to acknowledge it, albeit grudgingly and reluctantly.

    However, as laudable as Cuba’s role and that of other medical teams from various parts of the world has been in fighting Ebola in West Africa and as celebratory as the WHO’s declaration that Liberia has essentially brought the virus under control is, the point must be made that all is not well neither in Liberia nor its West African neighbors; Guinea and Sierra Leone also devasted by the virus.

    The first concern for these West African countries is that despite the most recent outbreak and the previous ones according to the CDC in 1976, 1994-1997, between 2000-2012 and again in early 2015 in which thousands died, there is still not a drug for the virus.

    The reasons for the absence of a drug are pretty simple and are manifested in three interrelated reasons.

    First, to put it bluntly, the major pharmaceutical companies are uninterested in developing a drug to kill the Ebola virus because it is not profitable for them to do so.

    Second, it is not profitable for big Pharma to develop a drug for the Ebola virus because the virus typically affects a few thousands of Africans in any outbreak instead of millions of people such as diabetes or heart disease over a long period of time to be worth their investment in such a drug.

    Thirdly, the patients and potential patients are typically poor Africans who would be in all likelihood unable to pay the onerous market price that such a drug would almost inevitably be sold for, if it were to cover the sunken costs for research, production, testing and delivery and leave a profit for these companies.

    Indeed, according to the World Bank in 2013, the average income or GDP per capita of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea was &470, $680 and $460 i.e. on average the citizens of these countries earned for the year 2013 probably what a dosage of an anti-Ebola drug would optimistically retail for on the market or probably more. Thus if this hypothesis is valid, the thousands of citizens of these West African nations would die as the retail prices would far exceed their ability to pay for any such drug developed by big pharma.

    So at one level there is currently no drug to treat a future outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa though more importantly, these countries do not presently have the capacity such as the research laboratories, the scientific personnel, the research universities and other critical infrastructure that is required to develop a drug in preparation for a future outbreak which is quite probable.

    Furthermore, even if Liberia and the other affected West African nations had the technical capacity to develop a drug to destroy the Ebola virus, the deficient purchasing power of the likely victims of Ebola would probably still necessitate that their governments subsidize its production cost and its market price to those affected in order to successfully fight the disease.

    Simply put the likely victims are people made desperately poor by the neo-colonial plunder of the vast resources in West Africa by foreign multinationals and banks in collusion with the local political and economic elites.

    Another area of concern for these West African nations is really at the core of the previous concerns, namely, the general state of socio-economic underdevelopment that prevails in these countries and their attendant poverty and dependency on foreign aid, foreign investment and foreign technology.

    Specifically, perhaps one of the crudest manifestations of the underdevelopment in these West African countries is what led to their dependence on the “international community” including the Cubans for medical assistance to fight Ebola in the first case, namely, the virtual absence of a modern health care system that is worthy of self-respecting nations.

    Sadly, despite their natural wealth of gold, rubber, diamonds, tin, iron ore and many more which are exploited primarily by foreign multinational companies which pay little or no taxes, these countries have very few doctors, nurses, virtually no virologists and other specialists, few hospitals that are usually ill-equipped and few ambulances for emergencies.

    Indeed, some cities and towns in these countries particularly those in rural areas have virtually no health facilities for their citizens.

    In short, the existing health infrastructure is and will be woefully inadequate to effectively defeat a future outbreak of Ebola unless the governments adopt aggressive policy actions to significantly invest in the training of health personnel and the improvement in the physical infrastructure of the health system.

    Finally, another critical concern confronting Liberia and the other West African nations so badly devastated by the Ebola virus is that their classification by the World Bank as ” Highly Indebted Countries or HICs” makes them and all developing countries in the HIC category vulnerable to pursue the World Bank’s neoliberal economic policies of privatization of state enterprises, liberalization of foreign trade and deregulation of the local economies in exchange for what the World Bank calls “debt relief.” These so-called pro-market policies typically destroy local industries unable to compete with cheap imports, introduce foreign monopolies and oligopolies to dominate domestic industries and therefore stifle competition an ostensible goal of the World Bank intended “to make these economies more efficient.”

    Furthermore, to add insult to injury, the latter neo-liberal policies typically have three negative effects on Liberia and the other West African countries devastated by Ebola.

    First, they clear the way for the further growth in the power of foreign capital and foreign multinational firms in the economies of these countries. The latter growth further erode any prospects for “competition”and the creation of opportunities for the weak and terrified petty capitalists to participate as a competitive counterweight to foreign capital in their own economies. Second, the governments in West Africa as a routine will typically lower taxes and extend more tax holidays to the foreiign corporations who generally pay little or no taxes as one of the cost they pay to create “an investor friendly macroeconomic environment.”

    The latter inevitably means that these corporations can more cheaply exploit the natural and human resources of these countries with the predictable consequences that history has recorded for over three centuries, namely, more underdevelopment, poverty and increasingly less power for West Africa on the one hand and more development, wealth and increased power for the foreign banks and mining multinationals on the other in the global economy.

    One of these consequences is that these West African countries become predictably more underdeveloped and poor as is deftly discussed in Walter Rodney’s book” How Europe Underdeveloped Africa”, George Beckford’s book ” Persistent Poverty” and also in Eric William’s ” book Capitalism and Slavery.”

    Likewise, these West African states will be left with significantly less tax revenues available to their central governments to do things like funding scholarships for the training of doctors, nurses and other other health specialists, funds to construct hospitals, clinics, funds to purchase MRI machines, CT Scan machines, ambulances, funds for reliable electricity and water supply systems in the absence of which there is no chance to improve the health care infrastructure and the physical infrastructure of these countries to serve their peoples and realize the other things mentioned above.

    Thus, the celebratory declaration of the WHO that Liberia has contained the Ebola virus should be understood within the context of the foregoing challenges that Liberia and the other West African nations of Guinea and Sierra Leone face and will face unless their governments seriously adopt policy measures to significantly redesign and rebuild the general infrastructure and more so the health infrastructure in order to effectively prepare for the likelihood of a future Ebola outbreak and or other emergencies.

    It is also worthy to remember that had it not been for the tenacity and sacrifices of medical teams from other countries particularly the Cubans, potentially tens of thousands of Liberians and other West Africans would have perished in large part because these countries have very deficient health systems which is unbecoming of self-respecting sovereign nations.

    Hopefully, Liberia and the other devastated West African nations will formalize agreements with Cuba and a myriad of other countries to lay the foundation not only for the training of hundreds of medical personnel but also for the construction of modern hospitals, clinics, the installation of vital medical equipment like X-Ray machines, MRI machines, ambulances and others to develop a long overdue self-respecting health system.

    One thing is for sure is that these “poor West African countries” as they are routinely described by western corporations and institutions like the World Bank and IMF are “poor” far less because of being resource rich and far more because of the structured and coordinated exploitation of their resources by foreign multinational banks and corporations.

    The latter exploitation of these resources by these corporations represents the source of the siphoning off of multibillion dollar surpluses of wealth from these “poor countries” that not only enriches these corporations but it paradoxically makes them more influential over the policy decisions that extend even more advantages to their operations in these countries.

    The tax advantages such as tax holidays for 10 years or 20 years without paying taxes to the governments in these countries is only one measure of the policy leverage of these corporations in West Africa.

    In this context, if these West African governments are serious about development particularly about developing a modern and effective health care system to battle Ebola, malaria or any other health crisis, they will have to necessarily among other things, tax the mining operations of these corporations to increase their fiscal capacity to invest in modern health systems that are required to serve their peoples and therefore to reduce their dependence on the ” international community” for assistance during periods of emergency.

    “Why do we need to make the rich richer to make them work harder but make the poor poorer to accomplish the same policy objective? A curious logic known as supply side economics”

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