Since the Ebola outbreak began in March, nearly 5,000 people in West Africa have lost their lives and thousands more have been infected. Without a proper response, there will be as many as 1.4 million new cases in the region by January. The crisis has exposed infrastructure gaps, undermined recent progress, and posed bioethical dilemmas. And while the epidemic has primarily affected Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, it has also reached Senegal and Nigeria and has the potential to spread.
National health systems and non-governmental organizations are responding to the crisis as best as they can, but the burden is too overwhelming for them to shoulder alone. Now is the time to ask what ALN members can do. Coordinated leadership between the private and public sectors is crucial to stemming this outbreak and preventing the next one, and ALN can lead this conversation.
At ALN, we foster relationship building across borders as a first step toward greater economic and social integration. We can use this moment to reflect on our role in the face of threats. Our worth as Africans comes into question when one of us has a challenge. What is happening in parts of West Africa affects us all, and we must all do our part to address the crisis.
The private sector and individuals can get involved in a more focused manner. For example, ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steel company, has constructed isolation wards and treatment centers in Liberia. London Mining sped up construction of clinics in Sierra Leone by providing heavy equipment. In perhaps the most direct response, Firestone constructed a makeshift isolation ward and treated 48 people after an employee’s wife contracted the disease. In addition to the private sector response, the public health systems of Nigeria and Senegal have successfully contained their outbreaks and have been declared Ebola-free. We must recognize the essential role of the public sector and learn from its approach.
What else can be done? What are you or your organization already doing? What gaps exist in the current conversation? Share your thoughts with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.