The World Health Organization’s January 14th Ebola Situation Report begins with several heartening statements:
Guinea reported its lowest weekly total of new confirmed Ebola virus disease (EVD) cases since the week ending 17 August 2014. Case numbers remain low in Liberia, with no confirmed cases nationally for the final 2 days of the week ending 11 January, and the lowest weekly total of confirmed cases since the first week of June 2014. Sierra Leone has now reported a decline in case incidence for the second week running, and recorded its lowest weekly total of new confirmed cases since the week ending 31 August 2014. (WHO)
The report goes on to state that Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone possess sufficient beds to treat patients and sufficient capacity to safely bury all known EVD deaths.
Guinea plans to reopen schools as soon as next week (News 24). The Liberian government designated a specific plot of land for safe Ebola burials, eliminating the practice of cremation that began last August at the advice of health experts but unsettled substantial portions of the population (World Bulletin). And varying projections forecast that Liberia could be Ebola-free as early as June (Outbreak News Today) or even by the end of February (Reuters).
Grains of Salt
Although the number of beds in each country is enough to treat patients, most of these beds and other supplies are concentrated in urban centers while the virus is increasingly localized in remote, rural areas (Vox). Statistics are notoriously difficult to come by in these regions, meaning case counts are likely under-reported, and the virus continues to emerge in new places. David Nabarro, the head of the United Nations’ response to Ebola, estimates that at least 50 Ebola hot spots remain in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone (News 24).
Cases, Deaths and Locations
As of January 15 the totals, including cases in Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Spain, the United States and the United Kingdom stand at 21,364 cases with 8,459 deaths (CDC). This represents a reported increase of 617 cases since last week.
Ebola’s Knock-On Effects
It would be irresponsible to assume Ebola is defeated and focus all efforts on recovery, but it would be equally misguided to neglect the wider effects of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Countries once demonstrating exciting levels of growth encountered staggering setbacks. According to a spokesperson for the Government of Sierra Leone, the country’s GDP growth in 2014 was forecasted to be an excellent 11.3%, but with the halt in economic activity from Ebola, that has been adjusted down to 4%. Markets are at a standstill, and industries like the tourism sector have almost disappeared (CBC News).
Help West Africans go the last mile in overcoming Ebola transmission, reinforce their efforts to prevent future outbreaks, and support the region in reviving the economies that showed such promise not many months ago. Help West Africans win the fight against Ebola by giving now.