The Urgent Need to Confront Ebola
By Chris Stone
The Ebola virus is ravaging West Africa. Months before the World Health Organization declared an emergency, Open Society’s foundation in West Africa, led by Abdul Tejan-Cole, began bolstering local efforts—most significantly, ensuring vital prevention messages were heard on community radio stations throughout the region. Abdul and his colleagues on the ground in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone are personally grappling with the devastation of the people, their families, and communities wrought by the virus.
Ebola is more than a public health crisis. We’re worried about what the panic over Ebola is doing to the countries themselves. We’re worried about the inadequacy of the international response. And as Abdul says in the film, we’re worried about the severe governance challenges in West Africa that Ebola has exposed. While struggling to cope with the scale of the outbreak, entire health systems—already stretched—have collapsed.
Open Society’s newest effort is a $4 million grant, which will in part go towards the building of a treatment center in Grand Gedeh County, one of Liberia’s most rural provinces. Over the coming weeks, Partners in Health and Last Mile Health will build a top-notch medical facility in the province—exactly where the need is greatest. If this test facility succeeds, institutions that can marshal the hundreds of millions of dollars needed to fight the outbreak—governments and multilateral institutions—will be able to direct that money toward a plan that works. We’re encouraged that the board of the World Bank has already authorized more than $200 million in grants for the crisis.
As Abdul Tejan-Cole tells us in the film, it may take some time to turn the tide against Ebola, but the resilience and commitment of civil society remains strong.
Until December 2017, Chris Stone was president of the Open Society Foundations.