HAVANA._ In Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, countries at the epicenter of the worst ever Ebola outbreak, more than half a million people are on the brink of starvation; a number that could double by March if the supply of food does not improve.
Such is the latest news circulating the globe and which accompanied U.N. General Secretary Ban Ki Moon on his recent tour of West Africa about the scourge that this disease represents.
As Ban himself announced prior to his departure, his objectives were to evaluate measures to contain the epidemic on the ground, their results and to express solidarity with those affected.
According to the most recent information available, the outbreak has revealed the vulnerability of the present system of food production and of value-added chains within the nations most affected by Ebola.
This is why the U.N.´s highest official warned that “we cannot lower our guard, the epidemic will only be defeated when we have managed to bring the number of new infections to zero, that is our goal.”
With regard to the food situation in particular, there is a vital need to import more into these countries which are facing financial difficulties due to a fall in their exports and an issue of funds or vouchers for food purchases to people affected –which would also stimulate markets– is recognized.
World Food Program coordinator Dense Brown has said that the food supply situation could worsen before improvements on the basis of international efforts become apparent.
But for that, financial aid commitments by the economic powers and international agencies must be honored and translated into concrete actions in the fight against Ebola.
As experts have confirmed, this is not the most contagious of diseases because it is not transmitted by air or aerosols, but only through physical contact with bodily fluids of the infected, which makes it less infectious than others.
Should the adequate monetary support for this battle be unattained, not only the disease but also the reneging of the richest nations will become endemic and transmittable.
In order not to repeat the Aid For Development Committee saga, in which most developed contributing nations broke their 2013 promises and only one third of funds reached the poorest countries, more political will and fewer promises are required.
The U.S., for example, only disbursed 0.19 percent of its GDP to this end and president Barack Obama has requested that Congress approve emergency funds of 6.18 billion dollars to combat Ebola.
The request includes 4.64 billion dollars for urgent necessities and 1.54 billion dollars in contingency funding for the 2015 financial year in order to accelerate vaccine research and to strengthen the global capacity to prevent the spread of future infectious diseases. For the three African nations affected, access to the funds offered would be of immense value as would making sure the money could reach the areas where it is most needed because what is hitting them hardest is the lack of basic sanitary measures and unreliable equipment in public hospitals and clinics.
LESS TALK, MORE ACTION
During a high level meeting of the U.N.last September, the World Bank, the European Commission, France, Germany and South Korea, promised to allocate 333 million dollars for the fight against Ebola.
There had been a separate previous U.N. appeal for 1,000 million dollars to cater for humanitarian needs in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. However, up until just a few weeks ago, only 365 million dollars had been committed, amounting to only 37 percent of the amount sought.
The U.N. itself has recognized that if the propagation of the virus continues to intensify in the three most affected countries and spreads to neighboring nations, the financial impact could amount to 32.6 billion dollars, a potentially catastrophic blow for an already fragile region.
Such economic costs could be limited should immediate national and international responses manage to contain the epidemic and mitigate people´s fears about contagion, all of which exacerbates the economic impact.
Nevertheless, even though many promises to eradicate the epidemic, which has led to almost 7,000 deaths and more than 16,000 cases in Western Africa, and to provide whatever might be necessary to confront the economic and humanitarian cost in the medium term were forthcoming from the recent G20 Summit, agreement has yet to be reached on the establishment of a world fund to combat the crisis.Share on FB Share on TT