Ebola is not only a medical emergency and case for humanitarian assistance, it is also a social and political problem
Ignazio Corrao is a co-author of parliament's resolution on the EU response to the Ebola outbreak
Ebola has been declared a public health emergency of international concern. Yet we are in the eighth month of the outbreak and the situation keeps worsening. It is high time to for this humanitarian and security crisis to be solved and EU should play a leading role in the process. The EU response should be three-fold. First of all, it should include coordination with all international partners and particularly the US in the fight against this epidemic. The UN is the most appropriate forum to deal with this crisis and the European commission should speed up its coordination efforts for a joint response.
Moreover, the financial support promised needs to be delivered as soon as possible, in order to stop the rapid spreading of the epidemic. Finally, support for the African Union in drawing up a holistic action plan, dealing with the political, security, economic and social implications of the outbreak, is crucial.
But beyond all these actions, we need first and foremost to display the political will to maintain a sustained and close focus on Ebola that spreads beyond the media attention span. We need not only to solve this crisis, but also to prevent similar outbreaks in the future. If there is one gap in European policies that Ebola has underlined, it is mostly the lack of sufficient funds allocated to medical research and this gap has to be addressed.
The epidemic of the Ebola virus, in northern Africa, is having a tremendous impact from the point of view of health and a high cost in terms of human lives. There are more than 2400 dead and 5000 infected, but in African countries most affected by the virus, none so far have concentrated specific measures.
The western world, easily suggestible, became greatly alarmed and rightly mobilised whenever a westerner was infected, but the same emotions, the same pathos, the same apprehension did not occur in the face of hundreds of victims in Africa, which generally becomes interest only when it comes to the exploitation of its resources.
I have often heard talk of "blending", what better opportunity than a disaster like the one caused by the Ebola virus to begin to actively empower those multinational companies which make huge profits from the resources of the countries most affected. Ebola is not only a medical emergency and case for humanitarian assistance where there is only death and fear of contagion, it is also a social and political problem and generates a disastrous economic effect.
The food and agriculture organisation has recently announced the huge risk to crops in west Africa. The side effects of this crisis are becoming more evident; food insecurity is worsening the already fragile economies of these countries, which are now facing a collapse of exports.
The challenges for Europe are immense. Local institutions are very weak, public health systems are ineffective, inconsistent, or in some cases non-existent. There is a lack of basic infrastructure, roads, structures necessary for an emergency. There is a distorted view about the disease on the part of local communities, for the very low level of literacy that promotes the spread of the virus. There are endless ethnic, political and religious divisions that bring smiles only to the merchants of death.
My question is this: Is Europe is ready to take on this huge challenge? And if yes, in what way?