mass-graves-tepLIBERIA, Africa – Liberia, the West African nation hardest it by Ebola, has begun a frightening descent into economic hell. That’s the import of three recent reports from international organizations that seem to bear out the worst-case scenarios of months ago: that people would abandon the fields and factories, that food and fuel would become scarce and unaffordable, and that the government’s already meager capacity to help, along with the nation’s prospects for a better future, would be severely compromised. They are no longer scenarios. They are real. While these trends have been noted anecdotally, the cumulative toll is horrific. The basic necessities of survival in Liberia — food, transportation, work, money, help from the government — are rapidly being depleted, according to recent reports by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
The FAO says that food is in increasingly short supply. Fields in some regions have been abandoned in part because people perceive Ebola may be coming from them or from the water used to irrigate them. “People are terrified by how fast the disease is spreading,” Alexis Bonte, FAO Representative in Liberia, said in a statement. “Neighbors, friends and family members are dying within just a few days of exhibiting shocking symptoms, the causes of which are not fully understood by many local communities. This leads them to speculate that water, food or even crops could be responsible. Panic ensues, causing farmers to abandon their fields for weeks.”
Too late to stop virus? After months of seeing almost no qualified doctors volunteer to help treat infected Ebola victims in West Africa, physicians are now signing up in droves, but it may be too late, experts say. The outbreak, which has claimed more than 3,000 lives, was deemed an “unprecedented epidemic” back in March, but critical health care workers didn’t heed the call, which was a major reason why the virus couldn’t be contained. While physicians are now stepping up in a bolstering way, experts say there will be a considerable delay before these volunteers can make a noticeable difference.
“As a result [of the delay] thousands of people will die,” Dr. Joanne Liu, president of Doctors Without Borders, told The New York Times. “I can’t say the exact figure because we don’t know how many unreported cases there are. But thousands for sure.” The virus could eventually infect as many as 20,000 people, according to the World Health Organization. But enough physicians have come forward that Doctors Without Borders, the nonprofit that has been leading the charge in combating the outbreak, recently announced that it no longer needs any more volunteers. The news came on the heels of a troubling statement Liu made earlier this month when she said that the organization was “overwhelmed” and “at a loss” as to how it was supposed to shoulder so much of the responsibility in addressing the crisis. –EP