When I look at Ebola, I see all the lessons
learned from previous epidemics and some of them ongoing.
In no instance has there been a big turnaround without the involvement of civil society.
Everywhere we work we’ve seen fear and conspiracy theories around fatal illnesses.
What’s the best way to attack fear and conspiracy? When you can link a public information campaign
to real action on behalf of the afflicted, then you start to have survivors who can say,
“You know, I had Ebola and I went to a center and I had to be isolated so I wouldn’t infect the rest of my family but I survived and I got good care.”
We need that to happen and that will be a major way to combat stigma and fear, to improve
the quality of care. There’s a lot of confusion about where Ebola
comes from, not just in Liberia or Sierra Leone but in the world at large and even some
medical experts who think that the fight is against the virus jumping from animals to
humans. It’s not. It’s person to person transmission
because the caregivers aren’t protected. Whatever we call these places where we are
isolating people following infection control, they need to have proper care and they need
food and they need all sorts of assistance that anybody needs when they’re critically
ill. You need something to protect the caregivers
and you know, they don’t have it. This gear is hot and it’s humid. How long
should a nurse or doctor wear this stuff? Looks like it should be a very brief time.
A shift should be two hours, not eight, and then the personal protective equipment needs
to be destroyed. And then all this happens again.
So it ends up being a very demanding effort which is all about systems, right. Every twenty
days, the epidemic is going to double again. If we do have decisive action, which it feels
to me like we might be mustering right now, then we will turn the epidemic around.
To protect the public’s health, you have to have significant investments. There’s
no question in my mind that without invoking a human rights model, we’re not going to
keep up with the epidemic. We need to draw on this obvious empathy that
you’re reading about now and then put it in place and cement it in place.
If there were a right to some basic services, I mean really a right for everybody; it’d
be less easy for epidemics like this to spread.