American doctor describes slow response to Ebola Outbreak as Racism
by Peter Anny-Nzekwue
An American doctor, Dr. Joia Mukherjee, has said that the slow response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa by the international community is racism. Speaking on Public Radio International Boston, she said: “I think it’s racism. I think it’s easy for the world — the powerful world, who are largely non-African, non-people of colour — to ignore the suffering of poor, black people.”
The professor at Harvard Medical School and chief medical officer at the Boston-based non-profit Partners in Health, notes that apart from race, classism is also the issue: “I think it’s also classism. These are not countries that contribute massively to the global economy, so it’s easy to just otherize this problem.”
Dr. Mukherjee sees as myopic the notion that “it’s not going to impact us” by the international community, insisting that both on health and moral perspectives the global community must respond to this Ebola outbreak before it becomes a global epidemic.
“First of all, it may very well impact us if we don’t get it under control. But, perhaps more importantly, from a humanity perspective — not a humanitarian, but humanity perspective — we’re one humanity. And the suffering of people in Liberia or Sierra Leone is no different than suffering where I live in terms of impact on a mother, a father, on brothers and sisters.”
On Tuesday, 16 September 2014, President Barrack Obama spelt out his 4-tier plan to fight the epidemic, including 3,000 additional U.S. troops to West Africa and $750 million dollars in relief. He said: “The world is looking to the United States and it’s a responsibility that we embrace. We’re prepared to take leadership on this.”
But as President Obama announced these sweeping measures to help combat the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, some medical experts have condemned the slow global response. Laurie Garrett, senior fellow for global health at the Council of Foreign Relations, told The International Business Times that if the President’s plan had been rolled out in March, “we wouldn’t even be talking about an epidemic today. My overriding concern is that it’s coming awfully late in the game.”
Under Obama’s plan 3,000 U.S. troops will establish a command centre in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, and 17 treatment centers with 100 beds each will be built. Garrett main worry is that it will take few more weeks to get the centres up and running and to get supplies to West Africa. “I’m fearful that the mobilization – all of it will take a lot of time. Almost none of this will be operational until the month of October.”
Dr. Kent Brantly, one of the American aid workers for Liberia who survived Ebola after receiving an experimental treatment, has equally condemned the slow response to Ebola. Speaking on Tuesday, 16 September 2014 at a joint hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and Senate Appropriations Subcommittee, Brantly claimed that he had requested for international aid long before he contracted the disease, but was rebuffed until he and a colleague became ill.
“This unprecedented outbreak received very little notice from the international community until those events of mid-July when Nancy Writebol and I became infected. Since that time there has been intense media attention and increase awareness of the situation on the ground in West Africa. The response to date, however, has remained sluggish and unacceptably out of step with the scope and size of the problem that is now before us,” he said.
More than 2400 people have died of the disease so far in Africa. The hardest hit country is Liberia.