[From Peace Action – WI’s Oct. – Nov. MOBILIZER, by Art Heitzer, Steering Committee Member]
The Ebola health crisis has given U.S. mass media another basis to scare the American people, but it has also challenged wealthy nations to provide resources to combat the disease and has raised some troubling questions.
With over 3,800 dead in West Africa and one fatality in the U.S as of Oct. 8, Dr. Atul Gawande of Harvard’s Medical School stated “it might have been the best thing … that the first case to leave the African continent came to America,” because that brought about the realization that “what happens there matters to us here” and a significant US response. He also noted that a potential vaccine for Ebola was left “on the shelf for a couple of years” because there was no interest from a for-profit corporation. The potentially life-saving vaccine in short supply was given to U.S. missionaries, but not to two prominent Sierra Leonen doctors who died after leading the fight against Ebola.
CNN reported “Cuba is … a poor and small country but it has taken the lead in fighting Ebola,” with 165 health workers sent so far, plus 296 more going soon to provide treatment for at least six months. The World Health Organization noted that Cuba had sent the largest medical contingent, hoping this will encourage other countries. The Washington Post noted, “Cuba’s universal health-care system enables” it to serve “as a crucial provider” in this crisis, in addition to training annually 20,000 foreign health care workers, free of charge. Cuba is not sending any troops.
The U.S. has meanwhile pledged a Pentagon operation involving 4,000 troops under the US Africa Command for labs, field hospitals, training and recruitment — away from the infected areas. It is unclear who will provide these would-be health workers. As the Nation observed, “if the military truly is the governmental institution best equipped to handle this outbreak, it speaks worlds about the neglect of civilian programs at home as well as abroad.”