News / Health

Poverty Helps Fuel Ebola Outbreak, Experts Say

Poverty Helps Fuel Ebola Outbreak, Experts Sayi
X
Steve Baragona
August 01, 2014 9:54 PM
Ebola spreads through contact with the blood and fluids of infected people. But experts say the outbreak is also being fueled by poverty and poor governance. VOA’s Steve Baragona reports

Ebola spreads through contact with the blood and fluids of infected people. But experts say the outbreak is also being fueled by poverty and poor governance.

In West Africa, they are literally building the facilities to handle Ebola from scratch.  Improvised tents house quarantined Ebola patients.

Many hospitals in the region lack basic equipment, says Tulane University virus expert Dr. Daniel Bausch. He spoke to VOA by Skype.

“You go to a hospital in Sierra Leone or Liberia, and it’s not unusual for a healthcare worker to say, ‘We don’t have gloves.’ Or, ‘We don’t have clean needles,'"said Bausch.

Poor health systems plague the continent’s other Ebola hotspots, too. Bausch says there's a common factor.  

“All of the large outbreaks of Ebola or its sister virus, Marburg, happen in places where social and political unrest over the years have decimated the public health system," he said.

The war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo has seen six Ebola outbreaks.  Civil wars wrecked health systems in Sierra Leone and Liberia in the 90s and 2000s.

Meanwhile, working in neighboring Guinea, Bausch watched paved roads erode to dirt paths and towns slide deeper into poverty under the weight of dictatorship and corruption.

“That period of not-responsible government degraded the systems, public health and otherwise in Guinea, and I think did have a role in leaving the country open to this sort of epidemic," he said.

Like the health systems, many people in Ebola-stricken regions lack the resources to get by. And that puts them at risk.

As they cut down forests for charcoal and to grow food, Bausch says they are driving the bats thought to carry the virus out into the open.

“With deforestation, bats that ordinarily would be foraging for fruit within fairly remote areas inside the forest now are forced to come out and look for fruit, for example, mango trees that may be in the proximity of humans and bring them closer to humans and have more of a chance of introduction of the virus," said Bausch.

And poverty is also driving people deeper into the forest in search of food, including so-called "bushmeat," which is known to carry the virus.

It doesn’t have to be this way, says Dr. William Karesh with the EcoHealth Alliance, also speaking via Skype.

“You have outbreaks in Uganda and they have invested in their health systems and they have invested in their education systems. So, of course, they still have these outbreaks but they’re controlled very rapidly," said Karesh.

Once this outbreak ends, Karesh says, health officials need to start preparing for the next one with better labs and hospitals, and more public information on how to prevent infection.

“We can’t stop earthquakes, but we can prevent a lot of the damage of earthquakes. And it’s the same with these emerging diseases and Ebola," he said.

If governments invest in better education and healthcare systems, he says, the next outbreak could be less deadly.

 

You May Like

Captured IS Militants Explain Why They Fought

Fighters from Turkey, Syria tell VOA Kurdish Service what drew them to extremism, jihad More

Security Experts Split on Kenyan Barrier Wall

Experts divided on whether initiative aiming to keep out al-Shabab militants is long-awaited solution or misguided effort More

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Officials say they hope to turn Manila into the next Macau, which has long been Asia’s gambling hub More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More