Ebola cases surpass 10,000 in West Africa

World Health Organization officials announced on Oct. 24 that the number of Ebola virus disease cases now exceeds 10,000. Most people have come down with the disease in three West African states: Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, where approximately 4,900 people have died.

On Oct. 23, Mali officials announced that one case resulting in a fatality had occurred there. The victim was a two-year-old child, who had been in neighboring Guinea-Conakry. Mali’s north is currently occupied by troops from France, Chad and other regional nations in a protracted battle against several rebel organizations.

Markatche Daou, a spokesman for the Malian Ministry of Health, told Agence France Press that the girl had been in Guinea with her grandmother and had visited Kissidougou, a town in the southern part of the country where the Ebola outbreak was first documented in December 2013. (Oct. 24) Forty-three people, including health care workers and others who are believed to have had contact with the child, are now being monitored by Malian officials.

The death from EVD in Mali has prompted the WHO to send a task force team to the country. Three experts were immediately deployed, and others are scheduled to follow.

Mali’s long border with Guinea has remained open during the crisis that has burgeoned over the last seven months. Nonetheless, Mauritania has announced that it has closed its border with Mali in light of the one case.

Cases in Guinea rise

While Guinea has fewer EVD cases than Sierra Leone and Liberia, reports indicate that there has been an increase in transmissions in recent weeks.

President Alpha Conde has requested that retired physicians return to practice in order to address the sudden rise in the number of cases. Approximately 1,500 cases have been tracked in Guinea where over 900 have died.

Though Guinea is a former French colony, it has received almost no help from Paris. Of the three countries most affected by EVD, many expatriate Guineans say that the health care system is far worse there than in Sierra Leone and Liberia, both of which experienced civil wars that lasted more than a decade and ended in 2003.

Guinea too has undergone military coups and rebellions over the last 30 years since the country’s first president, Ahmed Sekou Toure, died in 1984. During the transformation from a state-controlled economy under Toure’s Democratic Party, which was overthrown immediately after his death, genuine development has remained elusive.

Frankie Edozien wrote on Oct. 17 in Quartz, “Even though Guinea’s bauxite exports ought to make it among the richest nations on the continent, it was lacking basic infrastructure. The major city seemed like a very small town in any other country in the region.”

The same article continued, “From Conakry to the Fouta Djallon mountains, France’s colonial legacy was visible everywhere. Yet in 2014 the French government has not given the commitment that Britain has given to Sierra Leone in the Ebola fight. The healthcare system is still crumbling.”

Sierra Leone was created by London as an outpost where Africans who fought with the pro-British forces during the war for U.S. independence and who therefore were promised freedom were settled beginning in the late 18th century. Though Britain has invested most of its assistance in Sierra Leone, British imperialism has placed restrictions on flights and personnel to and from West Africa.

U.S. intervention in West Africa has focused on Liberia, a country Washington established in the 1820s through the manumission and emigration of formerly enslaved Africans. Liberia became a republic in 1847 but has remained under the domination of the U.S. since its inception.

Troops from the U.S. military have been deployed to Liberia to help build field hospitals and clinics. Even Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has called for more support in an open letter published by the BBC in mid-October.