Why Ebola Happens
The three worst national economies in the world are in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. The three nations are also in the bottom ten percent in education, health and overall prosperity according to the Legatum Institute's Prosperity Index (prosperity.com). Yale's Environmental Performance Index ranks all three in the bottom ten percent in overall environmental quality. So it is no surprise that 99.8% of all Ebola cases are in these three neighboring countries.
The poorest nations are usually among the most dysfunctional societies in the world. Not coincidentally, they are the unhealthiest and most environmentally degraded places on the planet. Their economies are a wreck, their educational systems dreadful, their health care infrastructure nearly nonexistent, and water and sanitation systems unavailable to large segments of their societies. Sometimes this happens because of a lack of resources – drought, poor soils, a lack of energy or other raw materials. But much more often it happens because of war, social injustices and inequitable distribution of wealth and land. Man's inhumanity to man is far too frequently the root of such nightmarish existence. And control of resources is often a major player in the conflicts.
In Sierra Leone, an eleven year civil war that resulted in the death of 50,000 people ripped apart a nation that was already in a tough spot. Control of the nation's diamond deposits was at the center of the conflict. Ethnic tribal divisions and control of diamonds fueled not one, but two civil wars within Liberia over the last quarter century. Coups, fraudulent elections and political assassinations poured gasoline on the already smoldering political embers resulting in 250,000 deaths. The diamonds and timber resources were sold by the warring factions to fund the small arms that were used in the conflicts. Some stability returned to Liberia with the 2006 election but the wars had shattered the nation, its economy, environment and what little infrastructure existed.
Guinea has been the most stable of the three Ebola-plagued nations, but only in comparison to its war-torn neighbors. The conflicts in Sierra Leone and Liberia spilled over into Guinea in 2000 as insurgents attempted to gain control of the bauxite, gold and diamond mines. (Guinea may have nearly a quarter of the world's bauxite reserves, the source of virgin aluminum ore.) Three separate coups have put two different military juntas in place in Guinea in just the last six years, following the death of their president in 2008. They have managed to avoid the large scale civil wars that tore apart Sierra Leone and Liberia, but few resources have gone into productive investments for three decades. The region seems stuck in the middle of the nineteenth century – except when it comes to military weapons.
All kinds of health problems are rampant. Infant mortality is extremely high and HIV/AIDS is still a serious problem in the region. Malnutrition and anemia, especially among children, remain very high. Ebola has become an epidemic there because of dire poverty, horrible living conditions, a lack of food and potable water, and dreadfully inadequate health care. Clearly, we don't need a medical miracle. We need a miracle that will eliminate the inhumane state of affairs that allows the disease to exist in the first place.
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