Doctors Without Borders Warns World Is Losing Ebola Battle

September 5, 2014
Davy James, Associate Editor

Humanitarian organization says world leaders are failing to address epidemic.

Humanitarian organization says world leaders are failing to address epidemic.

The insufficient global response to the West African Ebola outbreak has led to increased fatalities and the deterioration of society in the region, according to humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders.

The group said in a statement earlier this week that a global biological-disaster response, including mobilization of civilian and military medical personnel and assets, must be dispatched to contain the outbreak. Even with repeated calls to the international community for aid and manpower, the response has been “lethally inadequate,” according to Doctors Without Borders.

“Six months into the worst Ebola epidemic in history, the world is losing the battle to contain it,” said Doctors Without Borders International President Joanne Liu, MD, in a press release. “Leaders are failing to come to grips with this transnational threat. The World Health Organization (WHO) announcement on August 8 that epidemic constituted a ‘public health emergency of international concern’ has not led to decisive action, and states have essentially joined a global coalition of inaction.”

To date, the virus has killed more than 1500 people, with more than 3000 confirmed and suspected cases, according to the WHO. Doctors Without Borders noted that transmission rates for the disease have now exceeded all previous Ebola outbreaks, while a massive deployment of specialized medical units is necessary to control the epidemic.

In Liberia and Sierra Leone, there are 0.2 and 0.1 doctors per 10,000 people, respectively. In excess of 240 health care workers have contracted the disease in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone, with more than 120 fatalities, according to the WHO.

As a result of these losses and hardships, medical personnel are increasingly being pushed beyond the level of exhaustion to deal with the outbreak. Doctors Without Borders is seeking a biological threat response from nations that can deploy trained civilian and military medical teams with highly efficient safety protocols to the region.

The group noted, however, that military assets should not be used for quarantine or containment efforts, as those measures may further exacerbate the rampant fear that currently grips the affected countries.

“Funding announcements and the deployment of a few experts do not suffice,” Dr. Liu said. “States with the required capacity have a political and humanitarian responsibility to come forward and offer a desperately needed, concrete response to the disaster unfolding in front of the world’s eyes. Rather than limit their response to the potential arrival of an infected patient in their countries, they should take the unique opportunity to actually save lives where immediately needed, in West Africa.”

Care centers have become overcrowded, which has forced sick people to be turned away, while highly infectious corpses rot in the streets of Sierra Leone, according to Doctors Without Borders. In addition to increased triage centers, the group emphasized the need for disinfection campaigns as well as health and hygiene promotions within the epicenters of the outbreak.

“The clock is ticking and Ebola is winning,” said Dr. Liu. “The time for meetings and planning is over. It is now time to act. Every day of inaction means more deaths and the slow collapse of societies.”