Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, along with his wife Priscilla, has donated $25 million to help eradicate the Ebola epidemic sweeping the world. According to a Forbes article that quoted Zuckerberg, the disease has already infected 8,400 people and is projected to infect over a million in the coming months if it continues at this rate.

The money donated by Zuckerberg will be put toward the Center for Disease Control’s Global Disaster Response Fund. The money will support safe burials, services for the dead, the training of more medical staff, medical supplies and more. Approximately 150 members of the CDC will be heading to West Africa to address the issue in person.

Zuckerberg posted on Facebook, “We need to get Ebola under control in the near term so that it doesn’t spread further and become a long term global health crisis that we end up fighting for decades at large scale, like HIV or polio.”

Ebola has quickly become a topic of concern, constantly permeating airwaves and worrying the majority of the world. Accordingly, there are other wealthy philanthropists reaching out in the campaign against this deadly disease.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has donated $50 million to U.N. agencies and other groups giving supplies to those suffering from Ebola. Bill Gates’ business partner, Paul Allen, initiated the Tackle Ebola campaign, setting an example by giving $20 million. Allen strongly remarks, “A winnable battle should never be lost.”

Zuckerberg is considered one of the top philanthropists in the United States, he is involved in various charities and willing to donate financially. With contributions like Zukerberg’s, Ebola relief efforts can advance.

Kathleen Lee

Sources: Business Insider, Forbes
Photo: Flickr

media coverage
In the current struggle against Ebola, the American public seems to care more about the threat to themselves than those already affected. In an era of decreased attention and increased media coverage the plight of the impoverished is often overlooked by the impatience of western readership.

On July 12, 1968, TIME Magazine published a head-turning cover story on starving children in the Biafran civil war. The pleading eyes of two children stared the world in the face, challenging every reader to pause and consider their predicament.

And consider it they did: individuals, foreign governments and charity organizations flooded West Africa with millions of dollars in relief funds.

The 2014 parallel to the Biafran War is Ebola. The virus’s meteoric rise to the forefront of every news program is challenging the way Americans intake news. The self-centered tone that clouds American media has turned the crisis into a threat to the American public.

But is it really an immediate terror? At the end of the day most would choose to watch a news segment and then change the channel, leaving Ebola to those in hazmat suits.

Curiosity in African crises rises and falls with the course of events such as the Rwandan genocide or Sudanese civil war. Interest swells as death tolls rise and accordingly subsides as the conflict calms.

In the case of Biafra, children’s hunger was the subject of years of aid and public interest. In the nearly 50 years since Biafra, the western public has continued this predictable pattern of temporary fascination with the impoverished. But this pattern is changing quickly. Where we once followed crises for years, we now spend only weeks.

Four months ago, the international terrorist group Boko Haram abducted almost 300 girls from primary schools in Northern Nigeria. Yet since the initial release of the Internet campaign #bringbackourgirls, the world has turned away from the issue in favor of more exciting news. More than 200 girls remain missing and Boko Haram is still at large. Similarly, the #stopkony2012 movement that went viral seemingly overnight received an underwhelming response from the American public when it came time to take action.

With the media coverage of the Ebola epidemic continuing to focus on American safety, how will those in the midst of the outbreak receive the help they so desperately need?

Rourke Healey

Sources: Old Life Magazines, New York Times, Web TV
Photo: Afrocentric Confessions

Concern regarding Ebola has reached all corners of the globe. This year alone, the epidemic has contributed to the deaths of at least 2,400 people in the West African region. The World Health Organization also estimates around 79 health workers have been killed.

As the death toll escalates, authorities struggle to keep up with the rising number of people needing care. Clinics do not have enough workers—or even enough beds—to successfully treat everyone affected. Patients are being turned away, and as a result are bringing the virus back with them to their communities.

Despite the growing international response, with the U.K. and the U.S. promising to open new treatment centers in the region, there is still a heavy demand for health workers to come to the region. With an inability to keep the situation under control, public education has become a crucial component in addressing the epidemic.

Consider West Point, an impoverished neighborhood in Liberia’s capital Monrovia, where residents stormed an Ebola holding facility as a protest. The government responded with an overnight lock down on August 20. The quarantine ended 10 days later, after a number of additional protests.

The event is an important example of how shifting the community culture is crucial to addressing the disease. Many West Point inhabitants realized after the quarantine the true seriousness of the epidemic. A number of communities were convinced the epidemic was a government hoax, but now acknowledge the reality of the disease and have rallied against it.

Tan Tan B and Quincy B are Liberian hip-hop artists who try to convey the reality of Ebola through meaningful lyrics like “Ring the alarm, turn on the sirens. I see my people dying, but nobody’s firing.” Similarly, another popular song called “Ebola’s In Town” tells people to avoid touching friends to limit spreading of the virus. “Di Ebola Song” is a hit in Sierra Leone that encourages people to seek early medical attention.

Music can’t save a dying person, but community education efforts combat the spread of disease. Dr. Ibrahim Wadembere, a public health consultant in Uganda, explains the importance of community awareness for Ebola outbreaks in the region. He writes that community empowerment spreads awareness of how the disease is caught and spread, but also creates morale and prevents public panic.

As the world faces a clear lack of resources in addressing the epidemic, the importance of public education only grows. We may not be able to immediately create more clinics and find more doctors, but we can educate communities on disease prevention.

The community is the root of the disease’s spread, and prevention, intervention and control measures can only be implemented through the community. Making the ideas accepted and understood by community members will help maintain safety as the world scrambles to find ways to put a stop to this deadly outbreak.

– Fabeeha Ahmed

Sources: NPR 1, NPR 2, Academia, BBC

ebola in sierra leone
The Ebola outbreak spreading across Africa has become increasingly fatal over the past couple of months. The incubation period for Ebola ranges from two days to 21 days, and when not treated early on, has about a 90 percent fatality rate.

According to WHO, 630 people total in the West African countries of Sierra Leone (442 people infected, 206 deaths), Guinea (410 people infected, 310 deaths) and Liberia (196 people infected, 116 deaths) lost their lives to Ebola. One of the most recent victims of the disease includes one of the leading doctors in Sierra Leone, Sheik Umar Khan, who contracted the virus while attempting to help treat others afflicted by Ebola.

Psychologist Ane Bjoru, who has begun work in Sierra Leone, however, explains the impact of Ebola beyond purely the physical effects of the virus. In her article in The Guardian, she explains that as a non-medical staff member, a large part of her job is helping hygienists, who have to deal with disposing of the dead bodies, deal with this “new and disturbing experience” and much of her work “involves helping them with counseling and support.”

Ane Bjoru explains that to treat Ebola in Sierra Leone the hygienists are responsible for cleaning the blood and stool produced by the patients, and are confronted with a confusing mix of emotions when dealing with the dead bodies. They are filled with sadness from the loss, fear from the contagious bodies, and especially in Sierra Leone where the dead are usually dealt with by the elders of the society, some of the hygienists feel they are too young to be involved with this part of the life cycle.

Ane Bjoru, through her work, seeks to build a wider community of people to help citizens of Sierra Leone deal with the emotional consequences of the Ebola outbreak.

— Jordyn Horowitz

Sources: World Health Organization, The Guardian 1, The Guardian 2, BBC News
Photo: The Guardian

The governments of many West African countries reportedly believe that the current Ebola outbreak could get worse due to citizens refusing treatment for the virus. The epidemic spans several countries, ranging from Guinea (where the outbreak was first spotted four months ago) to Sierra Leone. Despite the severity of the epidemic, health workers have struggled to administer aid due to uncooperative citizens.

Ebola, first detected in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo in the mid-1970s, is a disease spread through contact with the blood and bodily fluids of infected persons or animals. It can cause fever, vomiting, bleeding and diarrhea. It is considered to be one of the world’s most deadly viruses, leaving only 10 percent of those who become infected alive.

“We are seeing a lot of mistrust, intimidation and hostility from part of the population,” said Marc Poncin, the emergency coordinator for a medical charity called Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF). “What we are seeing are villages closing themselves off, not allowing us to enter, sick people hidden in the community. They don’t come and seek healthcare anymore.”

Citizens have been reportedly going into hiding, believing that a hospital visit is paramount to a death sentence. Health officials have been chased from villages, and in the eastern part of Sierra Leone, officials had to fire tear gas to prevent relatives of the recently deceased from claiming bodies to bury them; interfering with the infected bodies allows for the disease to spread.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 888 Ebola cases have been reported, resulting in around 539 deaths. The WHO has labeled the epidemic as “precarious”. To handle the increasing amount of infections, MSF doubled its number of available beds. Yet, the organization feels that this outbreak could just be the “tip of the iceberg” – the beginning of a much more serious problem.

“If we are to break the chain of Ebola transmission,” said Manuel Fontaine, the Regional Director for West and Central Africa for UNICEF, “it is crucial to combat the fear surrounding it and earn the trust of communities. We have to knock on every door, visit every market and spread the word in every church and every mosque.”

In order to treat people effectively, citizen cooperation with health officials is necessary. According to Poncin, people in Gueckedou, Guinea shun the local center, where around 20 percent of the infected patients survive.

“People see people arrive more or less OK and then they die there. So they start to mistrust the treatment center,” said Poncin.

The same is true for the center in Kenema, located in the eastern region of Sierra Leone. According to Augusta Boima, a Red Cross worker, the people believe that going to the hospital will result in their death.

Many local residents have begun to associate Ebola with witchcraft, while others consider it an evil brought by aid workers. This has led to a clash of beliefs, as it is customary for families in the West African region to wash the bodies of their deceased. However, the bodies of those affected and killed by Ebola are laden with the highly contagious disease.

“For us to now have to give our beloved dead relatives away to people who will wrap them in a plastic bag and dump them in a grave without us washing and honoring them is hard to stomach,” said a Sierra Leone leader.

There are now around 603 Ebola-caused deaths and according to the WHO the situation is only worsening. Eighty-five new cases were reported in the week of July 8, and 68 deaths were reported from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea in the past week.

– Monica Newell

Sources: Reuters 1, Huffington Post, Reuters 2
Photo: ThisIs50

ebola outbreak
The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has claimed over 518 lives, making it one of the worst outbreaks of its kind. Despite containment efforts, the disease has spread to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, threatening to spread even more. A multilateral effort by the United States Center for Disease Control, the United Nations, the World Health Organization (WHO) and several other nonprofits has been ongoing in these countries since the first reported cases in March.

The WHO has narrowed down the main causes of mismanagement for the epidemic and hopes that in future outbreaks, better measures can be taken. For one, the aid of foreign doctors has been rejected in many rural areas where customs are incompatible with Western medicine. Additionally, people have been able to move between villages and countries with great ease. Since symptoms of the disease might take a few days to present themselves, many people unknowingly spread the virus. The assistance of Western doctors is viewed by some villagers as an affront to their traditional culture and medicine, and there has been continued resistance from locals. The Ebola virus is also highly stigmatized, so many refuse treatment and deny contact with the infected, which makes it difficult to prevent contamination.

Improper burials and handling of corpses have ignored WHO regulations. Many corpses are buried under the grounds of homes, which can facilitate corpse to human transmission of the virus. WHO and the national governments have been trying to find a way to honor traditions while halting the transmission of the virus. The mistrust of doctors has only exacerbated the problem, and prevented any change in local traditions.

Relief efforts have been weakened in the wide area affected by the outbreak. As the number of mobile aid workers who can travel to the remote regions and monitor potential outbreaks is limited, the region requires increased assistance.

– Kristin Ronzi

Sources: International Business Times, USA Today
Photo: GuardianLv

ebola cases
According to the World Health Organization, the number of Ebola cases jumped by 38 percent from the week of June 25 to July 2. With almost 500 fatalities and at least 800 known cases and rising, the disease is quickly being penned a global crisis by health officials.

The highly contagious disease, which is spread through any exchange of fluids, has an incubation period between two and 21 days, making it incredibly difficult to determine if you have the disease before traveling. Equally as startling, the disease has no cure — and as many as 90 percent of its victims die.

The current outbreak of the virus is the worst it’s ever been. The disease appeared to have been cut off by late April, when, after 74 deaths, Guinea’s president, Alpha Conde, said the situation was “well in hand,” and predicted there would be hardly any new cases.

Yet a mix of highly mobile populations, mistrust of outsiders and a fear of Western medicine have allowed the disease to spread quickly in a short period of time. In fact, those living in areas most profoundly impacted by the disease are also those most ignorant toward its existence in the first place. The Red Cross in Guinea had to temporarily suspend some of its operations in the country after staff working on Ebola were threatened on Wednesday, and health officials who have worked on the case before have expressed the unique difficulty of this current outbreak.

“I have covered six previous Ebola outbreaks and this is unprecedented,” said Michael Van Herp, an epidemiologist in Belgium. “It is unique in terms of the number of cases, where they are and how they are spread.”

In all three countries of the disease’s outbreak — Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea — people are “in denial,” according to Bernice Dahn, Liberia’s deputy health minister. “People are afraid but do not believe the disease exists,” she said. In fact, because the disease is still contagious even after the person’s death, the two main modes of transmission — home care and during funerals — are increasingly prevalent, and will remain so until the countries’ citizens choose to take the necessary precautions against contracting the disease.

While news of the severity of the disease is now prevalent, many hope it isn’t too late. After being in denial for so long, it will be incredibly hard to manage the outbreak, especially given the disease’s resilience. While time is slowly running out, we must begin to act hastily to put a stop to the massive outbreak.

– Nick Magnanti

Sources: Voice of Russia UK, The Guardian, The Daily Beast
Photo: Macleans

An outbreak of Ebola has been linked to more than 330 deaths in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, according to the latest numbers from the World Health Organization.

The outbreak, which is ravaging West Africa, is “completely out of control,” says a senior official of Doctors without Borders, who also notes the organization is stretched to its limit in response to the epidemic. Bart Janssens, the director of operations for MSF in Brussels, reported that the epidemic is now in its second wave and, more than ever, the international organizations and governments providing aid need to send in more health experts, as well as increase the public educational messages regarding how to stop the spread of the disease.

The outbreak, which began in Guinea earlier this year, appeared to slow before ravaging in recent weeks, including spreading to the Liberian capital. With multiple locations of breakout and movements across several nations, the outbreak shows no signs of slowing. Janssens noted, “I’m absolutely convinced that this epidemic is far from over and will continue to kill a considerable amount of people, so this will definitely end up the biggest ever.”

This is the highest number of deaths associated with the Ebola virus, which is considered one of the most virulent in the world. At this point, Liberia has declared a national emergency.

With a real political commitment from the governments of the infected nations and a more effective response, the epidemic could perhaps be controlled. However, currently the Ebola outbreak is the worst it has ever been, “It’s the first time in an Ebola epidemic where [Doctors Without Borders] teams cannot cover all the needs, at least for treatment centers,” Janssens said.

The underdevelopment of these countries plays an important role in the spread of the virus. “The affected countries are at the bottom of the human development index,” Janssens noted. “Ebola is seriously crippling their capacities to respond effectively in containing the spread.”

— Elizabeth Malfaro

Sources: CBS News, USA Today
Photo: CNN