The Ebola epidemic has gripped the attention of the international community for months now, raising an inordinate amount of fear in the West and prompting new offerings of aid and support to the three stricken countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. In the United States, billions of dollars have been spent on security and surveillance systems in order to protect the American population, while pharmaceutical giants are enjoying the benefits of new research funding to produce treatments and vaccines against the disease. But with minimal medical facilities and staff, little access to sanitation or clean water, and poor education, the current Ebola epidemic was a tragedy waiting to happen in three countries where health indicators have always been appalling. The region’s history of conflict and war; and the ravaging and degradation of the environment are critical factors in the causal pathway of these epidemics which have received little or zero attention. Dr David McCoy is the Director of MEDACT and a senior academic at the Centre for Primary Care and Public Health at Queen Mary University, London. He spent ten years in South Africa as a clinician and in the field of public health and health systems development, and speaks and publishes widely on issues of global health. He will argue that the international health community’s response to Ebola remains short-sighted and will ultimately fail unless we get to grips with the social, political and economic pathologies that plague the African continent.
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