Africa’s Ebola Epidemic

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By  **Dr. Samuel B. Artley, DMD. FAGD, Florida

This author understands Africa has lost the AIDS-HIV battle and now is losing this EBOLA battle disgracefully, our only hope at this moment is not God or Allah but the usual Western intervention. The article seeks to stimulate and galvanize us Africans in preparation for the next Ebola-like disease in a couple of years from today.

Africa is a continent of proverbs despite all the over stated differences among Africans, from the Arab African, Black Africans, Indian Africans, White Africans and to all others. One constant prevalent to all is their passion for proverbs. On graduation day I picked up my diploma from one of the very big universities at the city of brotherly love (Philadelphia). As usual, there were many speeches given on the podium. Like every other graduation, it was a long day of speeches, full of pieces advice from all those old men and women. One professor’s speech took my attention, he quoted a proverb from Africa, it goes, “pick a twig everybody can snap it, but pick up a few and put them together, not everybody can snap this”. Draw your own conclusion from this proverb, these are strong words of wisdom from Africa to the rest of the world, but to Africa these words seam to lose their gravity, they are just out there with no meaningful impact on the realities of life for all Africans. Individual countries are a single twig but collectively they form a bundle of twigs that can withstand a lot. Natural disasters, be it, flood, drought and diseases are part of nature, they are here to stay, it is just a matter of time, we will all get our fair share of these. Africa is somewhat fortunate because most other parts of the world have it worse than Africa: typhoons, volcanoes, earthquakes, hurricanes etc.  But yet still when it is Africa’s turn to get its share of natural disasters, we are always caught in the same hopeless position we were the last time around, ‘simply stuck in hopeless mode’.  Every tiny and large country within the continent is waiting on each other or lacks the collective strength to move and shake things up.  This inability to respond to stimuli is an unnatural behavior – living things have to respond to stimuli. If our current fragmented states or independent countries lack the ability to respond to stimuli, then perhaps we need to take a closer look at the system. It might be in need of revamping.

The system as it is right now lacks the ability to respond to natural disasters.   When floods, draughts or diseases strike, a big nothing happens, no social or organized body is in place to handle and manage these problems.  Hence the existing design of these multi – independent states is flawed. This inherent design flaw was put in place to do expertly what it is doing today – that is to fail periodically. Therefore African governments and people must recognize this flaw in the design and move to correct it swiftly.

The disaster of current times in Africa is HIV-AIDS and EBOLA. The ability to fight diseases, especially HIV and

EBOLA is grim but yet still Africa is critical of developed countries when they fail to make available their drug

pharmaceuticals. These developed nations are simply acting in a selfish manner, securing their own groups’ interests first.  In the same manner we as Africans, are selfish too.  We are stuck in our illusion, hoping these problems will go away before they get to us. Meanwhile we do a big nothing to help our societies. Thus we are therefore in no position to criticize or complain about  the help given . Africa needs to stop denying reality and wake up from its 50 year experiment of independent sovereign states. An idea EBOLA of 2014 is challenging with a degree of urgency on a global scale:

First, this disease does not respect independent sovereign borders of African states or governments. Second, response from all international states  (extra–African states) is to lump and unify the affected and the non-affected supposed independent countries into one state called West Africa. Third, this ongoing African pandemic has outpaced the potential capabilities of any individual African state.

Despite the isolated efforts of the individual independent African states, treatment and vaccination option for HIV and now EBOLA have been quite elusive.  One by one EBOLA is breaking the economic backs of these African states like a single twig starting with Guinea, then Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Liberia.  However, pooling together of scientific intellectual resources would in the future, convert all these African twig like states into a bundle of states ready and able to withstand all future EBOLAS and similar pathogenic diseases.

Going forwards Africa/ECOWAS has to move rapidly to start the establishment of a world class AFRICAN CDC    (Center for Disease Control ) , capable of handling all the biological  disease  needs of the entire continent.   Yes, ECOWAS must take the lead because this is a moment of distress for West Africa.   It is the most affected and beside this is an opportunity to establish such a facility within the region.  Such facility will have to be very huge, and must approach the USA – CDC in size and capabilities.  No expense should be spared here because the African survival depends on it.

Preferred location is Senegal, Ghana or Gambia, within the ECOWAS region, should the rest of Africa decide to participate without delay then it could be anywhere. Again this is all preparation to be completed within the next 2 years in anticipation of EBOLAS cousin.

Capability to replicate drugs and serum on a very large scale.

Financed from 0.5% – 1% GDP of each regional state – this must be mandatory with penalties for untimely payment.

A round up of the best African scientific mind within and outside of Africa.  These scientists must be paid very well to the standards of their international colleagues. The emphasis here is African scientific minds to lead and operated by African.

With a consolidated Africa/ECOWAS a roundup of the best African scientific minds is possible, under one roof as the African CDC.  Such a venture will be funded by African governments, for the building, growing and supporting of African scientists within the continental Africa.  These scientists must be  well paid and proud of their professions, while they prepare  for that battle of tomorrow, which Africa will have to fight again and again , not with tanks and antitank, but with anti-microbial and pharmaceuticals.  By then, the residual effect of intellectual properties rights, of cause will lie within the motherland.  Retaining such property rights will   produce a much greater return than any current individual government will promise or any foreign aid will satisfy.  ECOWAS should take the lead by going ahead to establish the African CDC.  There is no need to wait on the other regional African states, simply because West Africa is the most affected at the moment, and besides, this region understands the degree of urgency the most.  Waiting on the others will mean delays and more delays.

On the flip side as of today, I could not recall any similar research or centralized disease response institute within the motherland, which could represent her with a commanding degree of respect in any worldwide gathering of research scientists or institutions. Because in this world of pure science, capability is important and good, but result is respected in the absolute, with no consideration to borders or racial orientation.

Though Africa has lots of highly qualified and competent scientists within the continent itself, these scientists work mostly in small enclaves within their borders, in total isolation from other scientists within the neighboring enclaves.  The obvious here is that capability is definitely not lacking but result is.  Dispersal of capable or qualify scientists, coupled with the usual argument of lack of funds, the obvious consequences is lack of tangible results, which translates to the rest of the world, as lack of respect for these great minds within the continent. Result as I said earlier is absolute in the scientific world.

That usual scapegoat punch line of Africa (lack of funds) is an old and obsolete argument, perhaps Gambia, or Mali, or Senegal or Nigeria or Ghana can make that argument individually.  But Africa as a whole with all its 850 million people and up, should definitely not make such an argument. Therefore with consolidation and pooling of resources, at least the motherland will be able to muster enough resources to fully fund one institute, that will not only be actively involved in the battle for future Ebolas and other diseases, but would also be a leader in the field of science that all upcoming scientists, from every little facet or enclave can aspire toward.

2014 is the dawn of Ebola in Africa, with the existing system of multiple independent states it is impossible for local scientists or pharmacists to come up with any new drug or drugs. Even the local herbal medicines used by our grandparents, Africa is finding it cannot claim such herbs as its own any longer.  These herbal recipes are finding themselves out of the continent and are quickly claimed as intellectual properties of modern day pharmaceutical companies worldwide.  Africa then turns around to criticize these companies for not sharing the profits with her, or at least donating some of these drugs back to her.

Once again Africa has only its continued decision to stay the cause, and keep the status quo of fragmented states, to blame for its current position.  This status quo is not conducive to the breeding of large-scale pharmaceutical companies, capable of packaging and branding grandma herbal drug recipes, as its own. Such status quo pharmaceutical lacks the capability both in market and financial share, to globally stand by its product and make the legal challenge where it sees fit.   Instead the status quo only encourages the breeding of small pharmaceutical companies here and there with hardly enough funds to duplicate basic antibiotics.

Where Nkrumah, Lumumba, Toure, Nyerere, Gadafi and the likes of them have failed to attain some form of African  unification.  EBOLA of 2014 has stepped into their shoes: To hijack the agenda of all these independent ECOWAS states. Directly challenge the African alternative of traditional medicine. Halting, collapsing and reversing the economic gains of these independent states. 2014 will be etched in the history of mankind as the ERA OF EBOLA. This is a new paradigm for Africa, the land of proverbs. “Die alone states will thrive in union.”

**Dr. Samuel Artley is a Gambian born medical practitioner based in Florida, USA

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