Ebola and Poverty

Although contracting Ebola is highly unlikely, the disease itself is extremely deadly with between a 50% and 90% mortality rate once you are infected. The 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa has claimed around 1,400 lives, and threatens to spread into surrounding nations. The countries currently affected are Nigeria, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, which together have a combined population of around 197 million people. Officials suggest the outbreak will probably take another 6 months to get under control, given a consistent level of medical aid.

Map of the affected region, showing where infections have been reported and where hospitals are. It appears the whole of Sierra Leone has been impacted by the disease, despite being the last of these three countries (Nigeria, although not visible, was the latest country to report a case) to report any cases of Ebola. (Center for Disease Control and Prevention)

Poverty has played a part in both spreading the disease and stopping the countries from responding adequately. It has made the quarantine effort much harder, although there is a reduced risk of international infection due to the low level of air travel to and from the affected countries.

A large number of people in the affected nations live in slums; settlements which have few amenities and are often branded illegal by the government. The population live close together in shacks making the spread of the disease all that easier. The sewer system can be a simple gutter in the middle of the path – Ebola spreads through contact with bodily fluids.


The Ebola virus (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC – Dr Frederick A. Murphy)

In less developed countries the government can be seen as being corrupt by the population, so when Ebola was announced, many people didn’t believe it to be real. A quarantine centre in Monrovia, Liberia, was attacked – many say because the population believed the disease to be a hoax and wanted to shut the quarantine centre down. Patients escaped, sparking fears that the outbreak may not be so easily contained. (BBC Article)

Borders are less secure in these countries, making it easier for infected individuals to move around freely, potentially spreading the disease. However, the authorities have worked hard to police airports and potential border crossings in order to avoid further infections in other countries, using quick tests to see if travellers have contracted the disease or not.

Liberia and Sierra Leone have also made a law which provides the police with the ability to arrest and impose jail time on anyone caught hiding a person known to have contracted Ebola. (Al Jazeera Article)


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