Ebola, poverty & reparations

The latest news about Ebola is both reassuring and tragic. On the hopeful side, it confirms that this deadly virus can be treated and contained.

But it also confirms that Ebola is basically a disease of poverty.

As of Nov. 11, there have been nine reported cases of Ebola in the United States. Of those nine, eight have now recovered after medical treatment. The only person to die, Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian, had been turned away by a Texas hospital when he was already very ill from the disease. It is clear now that Duncan stood a good chance of recovering had he been treated in a timely fashion.

In West Africa, three countries — Nigeria, Senegal and Mali — now report they are Ebola-free after carrying out intensive campaigns to locate and treat people with the disease and their contacts.

But Ebola is still raging in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, where the mortality rate among those infected ranges as high as 90 percent.

These three countries have a common history. The area was depopulated by the Atlantic slave trade and later plundered for its natural resources as imperialism and neo-colonialism fattened off the people and their land.

Even before this deadly outbreak, these three were listed among the 16 poorest countries in the world by the International Monetary Fund. Liberia, which has always been under the thumb of the U.S. since its founding, became a virtual plantation of the Firestone Rubber Co. in 1926. Firestone is still the largest employer in the country, and has been accused of vicious exploitation of child labor and environmental destruction.

European and U.S. imperialists have grown fabulously wealthy due in part to their past and present superexploitation of Africa — both its resources and its people. Now that it has been shown that Ebola can be contained, will these capitalist rulers feel safe from further contagion and decide against allocating the resources needed to end the current outbreak?

Socialist Cuba has shown by deeds that its practice of international solidarity, especially with Africa, can make a huge difference. In the 1960s and 1970s, its soldiers fought alongside African liberation fighters against racist apartheid and colonialism. Today doctors and nurses from this small Caribbean country are on the front lines in the struggle against Ebola.

But Africa needs reparations from the imperialists who stole its resources — both to fight Ebola and to overcome the terrible poverty that is its breeding ground.