Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), the medical charity that first alerted the world of the spread of Ebola, has now faulted some national governments as well as the World Health organization for ignoring the warning and throwing roadblocks in the way of eradicating the disease before it grew.
Since March 2014, over 10,000 people have died in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone from the Ebola virus since it was found in the forests of Guinea.
In the MSF report, titled “Pushed to the limit and beyond,” the charity blasted others who could have helped, stating that its warnings last June went unheeded and its protestations that it could not handle the situation were regarded as alarmist. It added that not only did Guinea and Sierra Leone pooh-pooh the warnings, the Sierra Leone government told the WHO to report only lab-confirmed deaths, which lowered the fatality numbers. Kenema hospital in Sierra Leone, which reported some of the initial cases, did not report important epidemiological data, thus leaving MSF unable from identifying villages afflicted with the disease.
Part of the problem was the WHO’s history of overestimating the seriousness of diseases; in 2009, the WHO declared swine flu (H1N1) as a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC), so governments paid hundreds of millions of dollars for vaccines that wound up being unused. By the time the WHO deemed the Ebola virus a PHEIC last August, the virus was out of control. The WHO was accused of “crying wolf.”
Christopher Stokes, MSF’s general director, stated, “The Ebola outbreak has often been described as a perfect storm: a cross-border epidemic in countries with weak public health systems that had never seen Ebola before. Yet this is too convenient an explanation. For the Ebola outbreak to spiral this far out of control required many institutions to fail. And they did, with tragic and avoidable consequences.”
In November and January, there were less Ebola cases counted in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea. The presidents of all three countries want to eradicate the disease entirely by mid-April.
But the virus is still spreading; Guinea recently reported twice the number of cases in a month, Sierra Leone has put one neighborhood into quarantine, and Liberia announced it found a new case of the disease.