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Ebola, the epidemic that should never have happened

27 Feb 2015 - 11:07
Source: Flickr/ CC / UK Ministry of Defence / Doctor in the Fight Against Ebola in Sierra Leone

At the time of writing (November 2014), the death toll from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has exceeded 5000 people. This number is likely to be an underestimate. The first Ebola outbreak occurred four decades ago, in 1976, in former Zaire, current DRC (Piot, 2012).

There have been over 20 outbreaks since, but the current one has led to more cases and fatalities than the aggregated total of all the former outbreaks. Why is that the case? In this article, we argue that besides the challenge of ecological thresholds and other driving  factors, an analysis of the political economy underlying bilateral development cooperation for health might provide insight into the dynamics of the current epidemic. Secondly, an assessment of the response of the World Health Organization (WHO), the mandated UN institution to deal with international outbreaks of epidemics, may shed light on what the actual policy space is and point to future challenges related to managing emerging infectious diseases such as Ebola, through international cooperation (Chang, 2005)

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