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