Monday, October 06, 2014


One (1) Ebola-infected person has made his way from West Africa to the United States, and his case was initially mishandled by the U.S. medical system and by public health officials seeking to decontaminate the place he was staying before he was hospitalized. Mow, however, he's receiving appropriate treatment, contact tracing is well under way, as is cleanup. The system is working.

If you want to get upset about government mismanagement of Ebola, get upset about this:
FREETOWN, Sierra Leone -- It has been sitting idly on the docks for nearly two months: a shipping container packed with protective gowns, gloves, stretchers, mattresses and other medical supplies needed to help fight Sierra Leone's exploding Ebola epidemic.

There are 100 bags and boxes of hospital linens, 100 cases of protective suits, 80 cases of face masks and other items -- in all, more than $140,000 worth of medical equipment locked inside a dented container at the port since Aug. 9.

Hundreds of people have died of Ebola in Sierra Leone since then, and health workers have endured grave shortages of lifesaving supplies....

The supplies were donated by individuals and institutions in the United States, according to Chernoh Alpha Bah, who organized the shipment. But Mr. Bah wears another hat, as well. He is an opposition politician from President Ernest Bai Koroma's hometown, Makeni....

A recent surge of cases there quickly overwhelmed health workers, with protective gear so lacking that some nurses have worked around the deadly virus in their street clothes....

The government official who pleaded for the shipment to come in said that the political tensions may have contributed to the delay, to prevent the opposition from trumpeting the donations....

The shipping company, as a good-will gesture in a moment of crisis, had agreed to send the goods without being paid first, Mr. Bah said. But no more. Three other containers of similar value await shipment from the United States, he said, halted by the government's long refusal to pay....
What we should worry about with regard to Ebola is not that ISIS and the Zeta drug gang will conspire to send infected bioterrorists across the Rio Grande, or whatever the hell it is Fox viewers fear. What we should worry about is that the outbreak in West Africa won't be contained soon despite the fact that we know how to contain Ebola outbreaks.
If the delivery of protective gear is being delayed by petty bureaucrats engaged in partisan politics, those petty bureaucrats are multiple murderers.

The political class here seems to include a lot of the same sorts of petty sleazebags you have in politics the world over. It's not clear that an epidemic would change their ways:
Twenty-nine of the country's top health officials were indicted last year in connection with the misappropriation of a half-million dollars in vaccination funds. The leaders were all acquitted. A free health care program set up by foreign donors has been damaged by corruption problems, with nurses illegally selling drugs and doctors charging for services. In 2010, a former health minister was convicted on corruption charges. This year, the health minister was pushed aside during the Ebola crisis amid questions over her competence.
Do other governments, including those in the West, have any sway in this situation? Is there pressure they can exert to get these supplies unloaded? Because this is the sort of thing that makes this outbreak scary, not temporary mismanagement of one isolated case in a country that clearly has the infrastructure to handle it.


Victor said...

Serious question, Steve:
Do you think our Republicans and Conservatives wouldn't at least think of doing the same thing?

Especially if they thought they could get away with it?
And with our MSM, who's is to say they couldn't?

Mike said...

My first thought was "hey, have the Republicans started recruiting that guy yet?"

Ken_L said...

Unfortunately, foreign aid is a perennial source of corruption in developing countries. For example, relief aid rice sent to The Philippines from Japan after a typhoon was appropriated by some congressmen and doled out to voters in an election campaign. There's no real solution other than donors running the whole supply chain right down to the end user, and that's seldom practicable.

First world countries went through all these experiences on the way to becoming wealthy and (somewhat) law-abiding. It's natural to think developing countries should somehow be able to avoid having to go through the same miseries, but perhaps there is no way to stop them.

Philo Vaihinger said...

@Ken L

Is failure in the cards, then?