Its Friday lay day for me. I am up in Northern Australia until later today finalising my involvement in some projects that I have been part of. I was watching the TV in my hotel this morning after a run in the early morning humidity. There was a program on the Ebola crisis and how medical teams in Western Africa are so short of basic resources that the virus is spreading and becoming uncontrollable. The world is facing a major health crisis at present that is currently centred on the impoverished nations of West Africa. The struggle to combat the spread of the Ebola virus is being seriously hampered, if not imperiled by a lack of resources – simple things like disinfectants, drugs, staff etc. You might be wondering how the world could envision cutting the budget of the World Health Organisation, which is the prime institution charged with dealing with these sorts of crises. Well – fiscal austerity – take a bow! A class act.
The Ebola crisis apparently began when “a 2-year-old Guinean boy living in Meliandou village, dies after four days of fever, vomiting and diarrhea. The boy’s mother dies 10 days later, followed by his 3-year-old sister on Dec. 29, and his grandmother on New Year’s Day. Over the next few weeks, a local nurse and a village midwife also die.”
By September 20, 2014 there are now 5,943 cases and 2,803 deaths.
This following map from PBS shows the evolution of the virus:
The Scientific American Magazine has just published a new report (September 23, 2014) – New Figures Paint Even Bleaker Picture for Ebola Crisis – which should be sending alarm signals to all policy makers.
There is also excellent information available from the – U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It is a crisis that is spreading but could be contained with sufficient resources.
Which brings me to the point.
The World Health Organization leads the struggle against this sort of threat and is funded by national governments according to agreed formulae.
From the latest – Proposed Programme Budget 2014–2015 – we find this graph, which shows the WHO Budget Overview for 2014-15 compared to previous budget allocations dating back to 1998-99.
Since 2010-11, its buget has fallen and there is no expectation of an expansion over the next 12 months.
How is that? Well total assessed contributions (the amount nations contribute) has fallen from $US944 million in 2012-13 to $US929 million in 2014-15.
The WHO say that the cuts in its budget “continues the trend of an increasing proportion of the WHO programme budget being funded from voluntary resources”
Mother Jones considered the matter in this article (September 8, 2014) – Why the World Health Organization Doesn’t Have Enough Funds to Fight Ebola.
It is clear that:
… the rich nations of the world are not providing sufficient resources for the fight against Ebola … Due to budget constraints, the WHO had only a limited presence in West Africa at the time of the outbreak and it failed to detect and contain the virus before it got out of control. These poor countries had to deal with the crisis on their own during the epidemic’s earliest stages. The WHO’s earlier budget cuts also caused the organization to lose some of the senior staff most qualified to lead a response.
One word – Austerity.
Mother Jones concluded that “many member states replaced stimulus packages with austerity budgets and cut back on their commitments to the WHO”.
This cutback in the face of an unprecedented world crisis demonstrates how moronic neo-liberal economic policy has become.
Most of the governments who contribute to the WHO issue their own currency and could provide virtually unlimited amounts of that currency to provide medical supplies, cleaning equipment, staff and whatever was needed.
The health systems of the countries affected are poor and not in small part because organisations such as the IMF love to cut public employment for nurses and doctors in the name of structural adjustment.
The rest of the world has more than enough physica resources to combat the crisis and so all it would take would be for them to expand government spending pronto.
We can now see that people are dying because of unnecessary austerity – an ideological blight imposes on our sense of civilisation.
Policy makers who cut their funding to WHO should be prosecuted for breaches of human rights.
To see how ridiculous the funding cuts are consider this data. The – Assessed contribution payable summary for 2014-2015 – published by the World Health Organization tells us how much each contributing nation is expected to provide to the effort in 2014 and 2015.
Australia’s contribution for each of those years is assessed at $US9,634,200, which in AUD is equivalent to $A10,959,350. Australia’s population is currently 23,625,819. So, in per capita terms that contribution is 46 cents per year.
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, the authoritative source of information for such matters the data on – Overweight and Obesity – suggests that 62 per cent of Australian adults are overweight or obese – more than 12 million. Around 25 per cent are obese. 1 in 4 Australian children are overweight or obese.
The negative health consequences of this overeating places massive burdens on our own health system. People are dying because of affluence and personal neglect.
It is ridiculous.
As to austerity – it might be a different story if the Ebola virus turned up at 700 19th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20431, or 1900 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC, 20431 or perhaps Rue de la Loi 200, 1040 Brussels, Belgium or even Wilhelm-Epstein-Straße 14, 60431 Frankfurt am Main.
Then I imagine there would be a massive flow of funds.
Music after that
My band sometimes plays at an African cafe in Melbourne and there is sometimes a guy from Ghana who plays the Kora in between our sets. The great kora players from Western Africa are indeed a treat to listen to.
Here is a sample from the two of the greatest West African musicians – Toumani Diabaté (kora) and Ali Farka Touré (guitar and vocals).
We wish better times for the people of West Africa.
The Saturday Quiz will be back again tomorrow. It will be of an appropriate order of difficulty (-:
That is enough for today!
(c) Copyright 2014 Bill Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.