Ebola fight underscores global inequality

2014-10-01 21:09
(file, AP)

(file, AP)

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Washington - The fight against Ebola is also a fight against inequality between the world's rich and poor, who lack adequate health care, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said on Wednesday.

"The battle against the virus is a fight on many fronts - human lives and health foremost among them. But it is also a fight against inequality," Kim said in a speech in Washington, according to the prepared text.

The international community's response to the swiftly spreading deadly outbreak in West Africa "has been inadequate," said Kim, a doctor trained in infectious diseases, as he addressed Howard University.

"The knowledge and infrastructure to treat the sick and contain the virus exists in high- and middle-income countries. However, over many years, we have failed to make these things accessible to low-income people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone," the three countries hardest hit by Ebola, he said.

"So now, thousands of people in these countries are dying because, in the lottery of birth, they were born in the wrong place," he added.

The Ebola pandemic has killed more than 3 000 people in West Africa since the start of the year, according to the World Health Organisation.

"It has been painful to see us replay old failures from previous epidemics," Kim said, citing HIV-AIDS and multi-drug resistant tuberculosis.

When HIV ravaged Africa at the turn of the century, infecting about 24 million people, some global health experts believed that providing effective treatment to poor communities would be "too difficult and cost too much," he noted.

In the fight against Ebola, "the infrastructure we need is not that difficult to build and we have protocols to limit the infection's spread."

If the pandemic continues to spread to other countries, Kim estimated that it could cut tens of billions of dollars or more from economic output.

The World Bank already has mobilised $400m in assistance to the three countries to help fight the outbreak.

"Unless we stop the infection's spread now, there will be little prosperity to share, to say nothing of the number of people who will be unable to partake in what remains," he said, as the first Ebola case outside Africa was diagnosed in the United States.

Read more on:    world bank  |  jim yong kim  |  ebola

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