By John Queally
A top official with the global health organization Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders, who has just toured the regions in west Africa most impacted by the ebola outbreak, says that western nations are doing far to little—"almost zero"—to combat the deadly disease and chastized nations capable of doing more for being selfish in their response to the growing crisis.
"Globally, the response of the international community is almost zero," said Brice de la Vigne, the operations director of (MSF), in an interview with Guardian on Tuesday. "Leaders in the west are talking about their own safety and doing things like closing airlines – and not helping anyone else."
In a separate talk with the Financial Times, De la Vigne added: “We are completely amazed by the lack of willingness and professionalism and coordination to tackle this epidemic. We have been screaming for months. Now the situation is even worse – we are today on the verge of seeing an entire country collapsing.”
MSF staff and other public health crisis experts have repeatedly criticized the lack of urgency in fighting the outbreak and called on the international community for a higher level of assistance.
According to the World Health Organization on Tuesday, no confirmed cases of ebola have been found in any countries other than the four in western Africa that remain at the center of the crisis—Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone. Despite that, westen nations have take steps to insulate their own populations, but are increasingly accused of inadequately battling the disease at its source.
So far, more than 1,200 people have been killed by the virus which attacks the blood vessels of those infected. Nearly 2,300 people have been infected. The disease has been documented in previous outbreaks to kill up to 90% of those who contract the disease, but experts have indicated that the death rate is directly related to level of care the sick receive and the ability to fight its spread.
"If this Ebola outbreak happened in a western community, in London, you'd get a few cases and that would be it," said Dr. Gabriel Fitzpatrick from MSF field hospital in the Kailahun region of Sierra Leone who also spoke with the Guardian. "The main objective here is not to dramatically increase the person's chance of survival, it's to contain the spread."
Recent wars and lack of high-quality public health system in Liberia and Sierra Leone—where the disease has been most deadly and considered the least contained—make stemming the disaster in these nations particularly challenging.
"Both Sierra Leone and Liberia were at war 10 years ago and all the infrastructure was destroyed," said De la Vigne. "It's the worst place on earth to have these epidemics."
According to a report in Time:
A million people are currently residing in quarantined regions and are at risk of not receiving adequate supplies of food and water, although the World Health Organization said Tuesday that it had started delivering food aid to hospitalized patients and quarantined districts, in cooperation with the World Food Program. This aid will continue for another three months.
However, the biggest unmet need is for additional well-trained health workers. Professionals on the ground are exhausted, and several hundred have died in part because of a lack of training. MSF and other organizations are stretched to breaking point, some of them because of their involvement in other crises.