Over the past 10 months, the Ebola epidemic has exploded to an urgent crisis throughout the countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, with aftershocks being felt as far away as Nigeria and Senegal and a separate epidemic brewing in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. As of last week, 6,574 are suspected to have the disease have been affected and 3,054 have died of the virus so far, and there are no clear signs of it halting soon. Some early estimates say that the virus, which carries a 70% case-fatality rate, might affect as many as 550,000 to 1.4 million by January 2015.
The epidemic has exposed significant inequities in health access and health system deficiencies that have gone largely unattended for years. Hospitals are overrun and brave local health workers remain underresourced, while other neglected health needs have begun to increase their collective toll.
This is an opportunity for the global community and particularly the African diaspora at large to make a concerted investment to supporting African health systems that can contain this epidemic and respond sufficiently to future crises.
Media reports suggest that some diaspora groups, such as the Diaspora Liberia Emergency Response Task Force, have already self-mobilized to provide health materials to their home countries, and Last Mile Health, co-founded and led by Liberian-born physician Raj Panjabi (and our own Peter Luckow), has also recently taken a leadership role. Listed below are a few other organizations that have also begun to participate in response efforts. Our aim is to provide a concise collection without endorsing any particular group. (There's a more complete list of organizations here.) Check them out and consider supporting or even volunteering for some time.
International Medical Corps (recruiting volunteers) at the moment
MSF (Doctors without Borders) (no longer recruiting volunteers at the moment, but stay tuned to their site)
Partners in Health (recruiting volunteers)
USAID (recruiting volunteers)
Remember to Advocate:
The US has just made a significant investment ($175 million) to stop Ebola along with committing logistical support to build health capacity, and Britain, France, India and China are also acting. Importantly, the African Union has committed technical resources to effected countries as well.
However, in order to completely end this crisis and prevent crises of similar magnitude in these countries, that response will need to be maintained long after cameras stop rolling. For that, we need to continue to press our political leaders to continue their investment not only in emergency response, but in long lasting building staffing and infrastructural capacity. You can start by writing to your congressmen and even to the White House itself.
The epidemic might have arisen quickly, but the root causes allowing it to bloom are deep rooted and long-lasting and will require an intensive response. All hands will need to be on deck, including the African diaspora, whom we believe is more than ready to respond.
Do you know of any other ways the diaspora can respond to Ebola? Comment below!
Photo credit: AFP