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*The challenge of Ebola

By Bisi Lawrence
A lot of issues keep cropping up over the presence of the dreaded Ebola disease in Nigeria since that miscreant, Patrick Sawyer, brought it here from Liberia. What one finds rather disturbing is the fact that his trip into the country was deliberate.

He was aware that he had been infected, or was under suspicion that he was liable to being infected, his sister having been a victim of the highly contagious disease shortly before he left Liberia. In fact, he was said to have been ordered not to travel out of the country. But he sneaked out not minding that he was putting the lives of countless innocent people in danger. Appropriately enough has President Goodluck Jonathan described him as a mad man.

Dr.Ameyo Adadevoh
Dr.Ameyo Adadevoh

In the wake of the man’s lunacy, Nigeria is saddled with yet another concern on top of inadequate power supply, political disruptions of carpet-crossing and impeachment, growing unemployment, perennial corruption, stifling insecurity, and mind-boggling trade dispute everywhere. Unfortunately, one of the labour imbroglios is in the area of health, at this of all periods.

The Federal Government, in its typical manner is, once again, at loggerheads with doctors all over the country. Although the track-record of our medical men with regard to their respect for the values of the Hippocratic Oath has not been inspiring on the whole in such circumstances, their response was also inhibited by the threat of infection which a handful of them had encountered with disastrous effect already.

All the same, it would appear that the medical authorities are coping admirably at containing the spread and virulent nature of Ebola. Its horror stems from the fact that it would appear to have no known cure. That was once said of other ailments like leprosy or even syphilis in the past. But science has brought in relief for sufferers of such diseases, and more discoveries are being made.

Orthodox medical practice has not been very enthusiastic, however, about new remedies for the cure of diseases that have proved resistant to available treatment in recent times. That is especially true in Western countries where powerful pharmaceutical companies are not eager to welcome any product that might put the drugs that are already in the market out of business. That indeed has been the story of malaria for which is said to have been discovered and put into use in China and some Latin-American countries.

But the drug has been kept out of reach of West Africa in order to protect vast investments in the anti-malaria drugs which are being recycled through new names from one season to the other. And that also accounts for why cancer patients, even from Europe, now make Eastern countries, like India, their health destinations. And what about HIV, once the death knell of anyone inflicted by the disease? It was known to be curable here by Nigerian therapists who were ignored by the authorities of medical practice.

Ebola may be near effective cure already, at least in the United States. They have been able to keep their two infected medical workers rescued from Liberia alive for weeks. However, they have been less than transparent about the circumstances of the prolonged survival of the Americans beyond the fact that a certain kind of drug, which they are loath to recommend for general use, may have been responsible.

Many people may find it incredible that the “US or A”— benevolent giant and large-hearted benefactor of the universe— may find itself reluctant to bequeath such a grand token of kindness to humanity. But America’s imperatives about interaction with issues of international considerations, on any subject are intertwined with its foreign policy, which is based purely on American interests.

And so as one listened to the wild praise song that was being lifted by that American diplomat in Abuja, just around the time brave Stella Adadevoh breathed her last, the question that invaded the mind was, “And what is America doing about it all?” Pretty little. And why should they? What is in it for them?

The days of The Cold War are gone into history, The World Powers no long have to exert themselves over the prospect of winning over the developing countries, which are not so undeveloped as they used to be.

America did not hesitate to use naked force to bind the young countries over when they could not be won over — like in the case of the Congo in the days of Patrice Lumumba. But the emerging nations are maturing into prime international economic units which may not be ignored much longer. China’s involvement in trade with Africa highlighted this fact, and America sat up and took notice by recently inviting African nations to a round-table conference in Washington to woo them into closer economic ties. It could not have been less clumsily done, but the message was clear: don’t stray away.

But so also was the lesson. African countries definitely have a second choice. We can look into another direction, and we should. China has demonstrated a phenomenal upsurge in the development of communications technology in the last two decades, but it is clear that it has acquired commensurable development also in other areas. One aspect we should explore is health science.

The ravage of diseases like cancer seems to have largely bypassed China over the years. This also seems to have happened in other spheres like malaria. We would lose nothing by keying into their expertise but have not done so up till now in as vigorous a manner as would provide useful results. It is not late even now with the Ebola epidemic.

It is true that we do not have a cure for it, else worthwhile lives, like that of late Stella Adadevor, would been saved. She was a physician steeped in the practice, schooled in the art and totally committed to the highest standards of her profession. Who knows if she, as well as so many others might have escaped the cold hands of an untimely death from that dread disease through a better course of therapy.

We do acknowledge with profound gratitude the donation from the United States but what is urgently needed is a cure. That is the point of emphasis that has been submerged under the facilities mounted for containing the disease, needful even as that measure too is.

Our only other alternative, if we cannot obtain help from other nations, is to look inward. We must rise as a proud nation, proud of her heritage in the Continent in which every fifth human being is a Nigerian, and proud of her material and intellectual endowments, to engage the menace of Ebola fiercely and bring it down.

That is what we should have done with malaria all these years. Where are our scientists, anyway? We have recorded outstanding conquests in technological areas but usually in other parts of the world. Why can we not bring it all home, especially in the areas of scientific inventions and medical discoveries? It is about time. This is the challenge of Ebola



Time out.



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